- MPconMon 4:25 pm | Ontario, Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock
The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).
(The House adjourned at 7:29 p.m.)
- MPconMon 4:25 pm | Ontario, Oshawa
Mr. Speaker, our Conservative government has delivered measurable results for Canadians living with a disability. No other government has done more to support persons with disabilities find employment than our government.
In the most recent economic action plan 2013, a series of measures were introduced to strengthen the social and economic inclusion of Canadians with disabilities. We are providing $222 million per year toward a new generation of labour market agreements for people with disabilities to better meet the employment needs of Canadian businesses and improve employment prospects for people with disabilities. This will ensure that the training programming that is being delivered is demand driven and involves employers.
Beginning in 2015, the opportunities fund for people with disabilities will be funded on an ongoing basis to help people with disabilities train for in-demand jobs. The opportunities fund provided over 5,500 people in the last fiscal year with specific training for available jobs. More than $2 million will be spent to support the creation of an employers forum, building on the recommendation from the Panel on Labour Market Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities.
The enabling accessibility fund will be funded at $50 million per year on an ongoing basis to continue to improve access to facilities across Canada. Since it was created by our Conservative government, over 850 projects have been funded. For the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, $7 million will be earmarked to support research related to the labour market participation of people with disabilities.
Finally, the social development partnerships program disability component will provide $11 million annually to support a wide range of projects designed to improve social inclusion and tackle barriers faced by people with disabilities.
We are delivering results for persons with disabilities to ensure they can participate in the labour market. It is our goal that all Canadians can benefit from our government's priority of jobs, growth and long-term prosperity.
- MPconMon 4:20 pm | Ontario, Oshawa
Mr. Speaker, the CPIC system was established in 1972 as a tool for police agencies to share information regarding crime and associated criminals. It is now the primary public and officer safety tool used by police, public safety and law enforcement agencies across Canada.
Operated under the stewardship of the RCMP on behalf of the CPIC user community, CPIC is the system that stores and retrieves law enforcement information submitted by authorized agencies. The RCMP acts as the custodian of this information. Information contained in CPIC is owned by the originating agency and the police service of jurisdiction would decide whether to enter observed behaviour such as mental health issues or attempted suicide into the CPIC system. This is done for public safety reasons.
The exchange of information between law enforcement agencies, both Canadian and American, is essential for the detection, prevention and suppression of crime and for national security purposes. Entry into any foreign country is governed by the country's laws and policies.
- MPndpMon 4:15 pm | Ontario, Davenport
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the attempt at a response, but, unfortunately, it leaves a whole bunch of unanswered questions.
The agent in the U.S. did, in fact, have her medical information in front of him. He knew that she had been hospitalized. She had not shared that information with anyone and the government says that was not shared. Then how did he get it? It was shared and placed on the database. That information ought not to be shared.
With regard to persons accessing their records, he says to contact the RCMP. Unfortunately, the RCMP requires more personal information to be shared with it before it will grant access to CPIC. It requires applicants to actually provide fingerprints before it will share any information on the CPIC records with an individual and in some cases has refused to share that information with an individual. It is not an appropriate answer to suggest that this person can just go and see what information is there.
- MPconMon 4:15 pm | Ontario, Oshawa
Mr. Speaker, I rise to respond to the question put to the House by the member for York South—Weston regarding the sharing of information with the United States.
Police services collect and add information to the Canadian Police Information Centre system, also known as CPIC, in the interests of public safety. Leading mental health organizations support the placement of information in the CPIC system on individuals who may pose a danger to themselves or to others. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health supports inclusion of information on the CPIC system on individuals who may pose a danger to themselves or others.
While the RCMP maintains the infrastructure of the CPIC system as part of its national police services, the information is added, maintained and modified by each contributing police agency in accordance with CPIC policy. CPIC contains information on charges; warrants; persons of interest, including persons who have attempted suicide; stolen property and vehicles; and public safety investigations. This information, however, does not include personal medical information.
I encourage any individual who has concerns regarding the accuracy of their CPIC record to contact the RCMP. Additionally, I would like to inform the member that the Government of Canada has no authority to direct other governments to waive their requirements for the purpose of entry into their country.
- MPndpMon 4:10 pm | Ontario, Davenport
Mr. Speaker, last Monday, December 2, the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca and I raised a serious question during question period about the access of foreign governments to the private medical information of Canadian citizens.
The case involves a constituent of mine, Mrs. Ellen Richardson, a paraplegic who was flying down to the United States to participate in a $6,000 cruise in the Caribbean, courtesy of the March of Dimes. She was prevented from doing so by the U.S. border services at Pearson airport. They had on their files a reported mental illness episode from June of last year. Although Mrs. Richardson was guilty of no crime, in order for her to continue her trip the U.S. border services required her to seek, at some considerable expense, a U.S. appointed doctor to determine her capacity to travel before granting her access to the United States. Needless to say, this was not possible given the timelines and Mrs. Richardson lost her cruise and her money.
This episode raises troubling questions about how a foreign government could gain access to the private medical information of Canadians. Mrs. Richardson, we have discovered, is not alone. According to the Psychiatric Patient Advocate Office, a Government of Ontario agency, dozens of Canadians from Ontario have been stopped at the border by U.S. officials on this basis in recent years. That is, they were stopped because the U.S. border services had information about their health, information that is by law in Canada, confidential.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health, in reply to my question said that the government respects the privacy of Canadian health information, but that such health information is the responsibility of the provinces. The fact is that the responsibility for sharing Canadian information with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security lies with the RCMP through its Canadian Police Information Centre and the RCMP is clearly the responsibility of the federal government. This is where we believe the federal government should be acting to ensure that private health information, unrelated to criminal records, that is contained in CPIC is kept confidential and not shared with foreign governments.
What happened to Mrs. Richardson at the border was not only crushing for her, it raises questions for all Canadians. How did her personal medical information end up in the hands of U.S. border guards? Did a Canadian entity share this information with U.S. authorities? If so, why? Was it a mistake, or was this information shared with U.S. authorities according to Canadian government policy? Who has access to it? What other information is being shared?
It turns out there is very little control over what information the RCMP collects and stores in this database and how it is to be accessed. Surely there is a difference between criminal records, outstanding warrants, stolen property and criminal surveillance, which are all legitimate items to share with law enforcement agencies, and 911 calls for assistance, police reports where no charges were laid and other non-criminal activities. Surely there are reasonable limits to what Big Brother should know and share with other governments.
Ellen Richardson broke no laws, yet her personal information ended up in the hands of the U.S. government. Therefore, the question still remains. Is the government, which says it is committed to ensuring the privacy of all Canadians' health information, willing to take steps to do so? Is the government ready to publicly review the criteria of what information in the RCMP's Canadian Police Information Centre can be accessed and by whom, in order to assure Canadians that non-criminal health information about them remains confidential? Canadians deserve better.
- MPconMon 4:10 pm | Ontario, Oak Ridges—Markham
Of course, Mr. Speaker, the senators are responsible for their own decisions.
- MPconMon 4:05 pm | Saskatchewan, Regina—Qu'Appelle
I declare the motion carried.
(Bill read the third time and passed)
- MPconMon 4:00 pm | Saskatchewan, Regina—Qu'Appelle
The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at third reading stage of Bill C-4.
- MPlibMon 3:55 pm | Newfoundland, Random—Burin—St. George's
Mr. Speaker, the Liberals agree and will vote no.
- MPconMon 3:55 pm | Saskatchewan, Regina—Qu'Appelle
I declare the motion carried.
(Bill read the third time and passed)
- MPconMon 3:55 pm | Ontario, Parry Sound—Muskoka
moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.
- MPconMon 3:55 pm | Ontario, Peterborough
Mr. Speaker, I will be voting yes.
- MPlibMon 3:50 pm | Newfoundland, Random—Burin—St. George's
Mr. Speaker, we agree to apply the results of the previous vote to this vote, with the Liberals voting no.
- MPconMon 3:50 pm | Saskatchewan, Regina—Qu'Appelle
Is there unanimous consent to proceed in this fashion?
- MPconMon 3:50 pm | Ontario, Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock
(Clause 1 agreed to)
Shall the preamble carry?
- MPconMon 3:50 pm | Ontario, Parry Sound—Muskoka
moved that the bill be read the second time and referred to a committee of the whole.
- MPconMon 3:50 pm | Ontario, Peterborough
Mr. Speaker, I stand with the Conservative Party.
- MPconMon 3:40 pm | Saskatchewan, Regina—Qu'Appelle
All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.
- MPconMon 3:40 pm | Ontario, Parry Sound—Muskoka
That the Supplementary Estimates (B) for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2014 be concurred in.
- MPconMon 3:15 pm | Ontario, Simcoe North
All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.
- MPndpMon 3:10 pm | Ontario, Hamilton East—Stoney Creek
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the parliamentary secretary for his question because, yes, some of the things that the government has done have been reasonable. However, I was trying to remind the government of a promise it made in 2009. Conservatives said, in response to a unanimous motion, that they supported it. The reality is that going forward, it is going to take time for this to evolve. It will be seven years to put it into place, and before it will be of definite value to people, we are talking about 30 years.
This is not going to be a remedy for people today at this point in time. We are talking about the 12 million souls who do not have any savings and do not have any opportunity.
We are not meaning to minimize any other programs the government may have. That is not the point of the exercise today. The point today is to bring us back to understanding that we have a chance to protect future generations and allow them to live in dignity.
- MPndpMon 3:00 pm | Quebec, Beauport—Limoilou
Mr. Speaker, again, I speak from my experience as a former business owner. When one has only a handful of employees, it is very hard to approach an insurance company and ask it to provide a pension plan. If I remember correctly, with a contribution of $20,000 to $40,000, one cannot make a pension plan out of that. One needs to have an annual contribution of almost a quarter of a million dollars or upwards in order to do that.
What the government is implementing is a pooled registered pension plan. It would be a regulated plan whereby the criteria for investment and so on would be regulated much like a bank or an insurance company. It would be portable so that as one moves in and out of jobs, or for a small business owner or the self-employed, the savings would be there and managed on a path to growth.
- MPndpMon 3:00 pm | Ontario, Hamilton East—Stoney Creek
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to be able to speak on this, particularly after some of the comments of the last speaker and some of the people asking questions.
Back in June 2009, the House unanimously passed a motion. I hope that the Conservatives are paying attention to this, because part of the motion that they on the government side voted unanimously for included expanding and increasing CPP, OAS and GIS, establishing a self-financing pension insurance plan, ensuring workers' pensions go to the front of the line in the case of bankruptcy proceedings, and in the interest of appropriate management, stopping the bonuses that went on with the CPP. That passed unanimously in the House. It served as a road map for the next three years.
In fact, I was the critic who put that motion before the House. I went to over 50 town hall meetings across the country from B.C. to the east coast. The reason we did all of that was the 12 million working people in Canada who have no pensions and no savings.
Now, we hear all of this talk about the PRPP. The fact of the matter is that the PRPP is nothing more than a fancified RRSP. The real flaw with the PRPP is that it is not mandatory. One of the points that was made was about the disposable income of Canadians, and we are very concerned about the disposable income of Canadians.
One of the things that members might want to know that would be helpful is that a person with a $30,000 annual income would pay an annual increase of $117.86. That is $0.06 an hour, or 0.43% of their income. If they made $47,000 a year, that would equate to $185.43 a year. Yes, it would be matched by the employer. We are not trying to hide anything from Canadians.
We talked about a phase-in period. The purpose of the phase-in is a sensibility to the tenuous nature of the economy at this point in time, so we would take some time to develop this.
We know that 93% of working Canadians today are in the Canada pension plan. We are saying to them that the OECD looked at the Canada pension plan in 2008 and said it was funded for 75 years. We agree with that. We think that it is in good shape and that it has been well managed over the years. It is a vehicle that is very important to Canadians. If we modestly increase that over seven years to phase in the payments, it is not going to double anyone's pension plan today. This is putting money away for the future.
One of the things that it does, which is very important, is it allows Canadians the vehicle to put some of their money in. These 12 million people are putting no money aside at this point in time. They are not able to, for whatever reason, or choosing not to in most cases. They are not able to participate. In 30 years' time, if we do not have a vehicle that gives them the kind of protection that the major increase to the Canada pension plan would, what is going to happen? They are going to hit a wall. They are going to hit 65 and they are going to have very little. Even if they participate in a PRPP, what good is the $100,000 or the $60,000 that they manage to save there, relative to the outcome that could arise from a well-invested Canada pension plan that would provide security for them and their families?
This is critically important. We are talking about future generations. We are talking about our own grandchildren here. We are not talking about today's workers to that degree. This is down the road, but it is so vitally important to people.
When I crossed the country and talked to people in towns, from Thunder Bay to the east coast. I think Barrington was the name of one community that I was in on the east coast. I was in the member for Victoria's riding for two meetings as well. Today, he has the file on behalf of the NDP and has put today's motion forward.
What is sad is that we had to reach the point of putting today's motion forward to once again push a party forward that had already agreed with us. It agreed with us in 2009, even after we had the major downturn in the economy where people understood that going forward would be somewhat difficult.
How difficult would it be for families if we do not do something?
We saw circumstances in the past where we, the NDP as a party, proposed non-profit daycare for families. The response from the other side was $100 a month. Do members know what the cost of daycare is? It is in the hundreds of dollars per week. That would not even touch it.
Now we have another band-aid solution from the government in the PRPP, which does not even remotely come close to what would be needed.
I want to take members back to something I said a few minutes ago. There are 12 million working Canadians who are not prepared for the future. It is the current government's responsibility to help them prepare through the vehicle they already have.
The Canada pension plan is portable right across the country. It is a completely open vehicle. What is crucial about the Canada pension plan is that it is mandatory. How many times have members here, when they were 25, 35 or 45 years old, said that they were going to save x amount of money to prepare for this contingency, and once they got there, had only saved half or a quarter of it? That is where the mandatory part comes in.
The employer community has a responsibility as well. That is something that some people call into question. We have to make sure it is open so that they can also take part in the Canada pension plan. We have to ensure there are vehicles within the Canada pension plan to allow everyone who works, including employers, in. We have to look at the possibilities. There is a great number of business people out there who are relying totally on the resale of their business to supply their retirement. How many businesses have we seen where, because of changes after 40 years, may not be viable or have the cash value they anticipated? Therefore, they are in a tenuous position relative to the future as well.
This is a model that could be put in place for all Canadians, for the benefit of all Canadians, to ensure dignity in retirement.
I know it is not part of today's motion, but back in June of 2009, we talked about an increase to the guaranteed income supplement. I am saying that because I want to talk again about the desperate situation some people find themselves in. There are many senior citizens who live on about $1,400 a month. In the 50 town hall meetings, I had four occasions where I had people take me aside after the meeting and tell me that they ate cat food to get protein. That is no way for any of our seniors to have to live in this country. I am not saying that to embarrass anyone. That is a cold, hard fact of what people face who are not prepared for their retirement. Many of these people are not sophisticated in their approach to retirement.
Just before I finish, I want to stress once more that the cost of increasing the Canada pension plan benefit to the point of dignity for someone whose salary is $30,000 would be $117 per year or 6¢ an hour.
In closing, I would ask members one last time to take the time to look back to the June 2009 motion and to what the government unanimously supported at that time. It is the very issue we are talking about today.
- MPndpMon 2:55 pm | Quebec, Beauport—Limoilou
Mr. Speaker, on the question of trust, we all work better when we all trust each other, but with the Prime Minister on a very high level basis, we cannot address the issues at the ministerial level. On a regular basis, the federal Minister of Finance, the federal Minister of Health and the federal Minister of Transport individually consult with the provinces in order to arrive at the best decision and we certainly have the trust of many of the provinces that I have had occasion to visit.
- MPconMon 2:55 pm | Ontario, Perth—Wellington
Mr. Speaker, I would like to pose one question. I have listened intently today to members on the other side talk about how we should gradually double Canada pension. Does everybody here realize that people have to have jobs in order to pay into Canada pension?
I had a call from a gentleman who said that it was great and asked why I was not in support of doubling the pension. He said that he really needed it. I asked him if he was on pension now and he said yes. I asked if his wife was on it and he said she was, too. I asked him if they both drew the same amount and he said no. That was because he paid more in than she did.
Another gentleman came to see me. He said that he fell off of his bicycle and was thinking about going on disability. He said that he thought he could live on $840 a month. When I helped him apply for it, we found out he had never paid in, so he was not eligible.
A lot of the things we are talking about today do not even come under Canada pension. I would ask my hon. colleague to comment on that, please.
- MPndpMon 2:50 pm | Quebec, Beauport—Limoilou
Mr. Speaker, in my business experience, I have run corporations that had a few professionals up to 400. In looking at Canada's overall retirement system, it is a very balanced system and there are many options for employees to choose from. For example, first and foremost, there are capital gains on the principal house someone lives in, but it is not taxed on disposition as one retires. Second, there is CPP and for those who fall under the threshold, they are supplemented by GIS and so on. There is also the pooled registered pension plan and the registered retirement savings plan. These are elements for retirement benefits.
- MPndpMon 2:35 pm | Quebec, Beauport—Limoilou
Mr. Speaker, as I have listened to my hon. colleagues across the way, it has become clear to me that the opposition party has no understanding when it comes to the economy. New Democrats simply fail to understand the negative economic impact their proposal would have on families and communities from coast to coast to coast.
May I suggest to my NDP colleagues some background on the current state of the global economy and the risks that still exist that could derail Canada's recovery.
When the global recession hit in 2008, our government helped steer Canada through immensely challenging economic times. Indeed, Canada performed better than most countries during the recession and throughout the recovery. However, despite this relatively strong economic performance, global economic challenges remain, especially in Europe and the United States, our largest trading partners.
The NDP might be interested to know that global growth has been much weaker than expected. Growth in advanced economies, such as Canada, has stabilized at a relatively slow pace, while growth in emerging markets has slowed. The Euro area continues to grapple with a sovereign debt crisis that weighs on consumer and business confidence.
That is not all. Just south of the border, slower than expected growth, as well as uncertainty about the stability of the United States' finances, pose the greatest risk to the Canadian economy. It is not surprising that for this reason, the International Monetary Fund recently revised downward its outlook for real GDP growth in both advanced and emerging economies. Indeed, the IMF projects that growth in advanced economies will average just under 1.2% in 2013.
We all know that Canada is a trading country. We depend on a strong global economy for exports, especially to the United States and Europe. While economic growth in Canada has remained resilient, Canada is not immune to weaker economic performances beyond its borders. For this reason, it is not surprising that global economic weakness has weighed on demand for our exports, which has put downward pressure on Canada's real GDP growth. Furthermore, this weak global economy has depressed the prices of our exports. This, combined with low inflation at home, has resulted in weaker nominal GDP growth.
Let me clarify what this means. It means that despite Canada's relatively strong economic performance, there are a number of economic challenges that remain in the global economy. While the NDP might prefer that Canada become a protectionist country, the reality is that economic conditions beyond our borders have impacted Canada and will continue to. Simply put, we are not out of the woods yet. Canada's economy, while improving, remains fragile.
On this point, I can speak from my own personal business experience in private practice as a business owner for over two decades. The last thing employers and workers want during uncertain economic times is higher taxes. Higher taxes on employers will reduce their ability to grow their businesses by investing in more equipment and by hiring more workers. In the case of workers, higher taxes take more of their hard-earned money out of their pockets and can cause hardship for families trying to make ends meet during turbulent economic times.
While the members of the NDP may not realize this, CPP contributions are a payroll tax on employers. To increase payroll taxes on employers, when the economy is still recovering, would not only harm Canada's economy but would kill jobs, putting many Canadians out of work.
The NDP does not seem to understand that we cannot tax our way to prosperity. Not only do New Democrats not seem to understand this in the context of the Canada pension plan, they also do not seem to understand it in the context of business tax rates.
Just a couple of weeks ago, when I asked point blank if he would increase taxes on Canadian businesses, the leader of the NDP again confirmed that he would. Why, when other countries around the world are lowering their tax burden on job creation, would the leader of the NDP commit to increasing taxes?
I am not sure that the leader of the NDP, or anyone among the NDP ranks, understands how crippling a tax hike can be to businesses, especially when they are still trying to cope with a fragile economic recovery. It is clear that the NDP members do not, because if they did understand, they might grasp the economic consequences of their own proposal.
Indeed, the NDP wants to expand the CPP. This would effectively hike payroll taxes for employers and take money out of the pockets of hard-working Canadians. In fact, this radical plan would severely stunt economic growth. The NDP plan would force contribution rates to increase by an average of $1,600 per year per person. This means that a family with two workers at home could be forced to pay as much as $2,600 in additional taxes every year.
Not only would the NDP proposal cost Canadians their hard-earned money, but it would also cost them their jobs. The NDP plan could kill up to 70,000 in Canada. I would like to ask the members of the NDP how they feel about killing 70,000 Canadians jobs.
Not only that, I would like to know how the NDP members feel about doing something to which small business owners are strongly opposed.
I am going to share with the NDP what business owners think of its proposal. It might be interested to learn that a recent survey by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business revealed: 65% of businesses said that they would freeze or cut salaries if the Canada pension plan contribution was increased; 48% said they would reduce investment in their business; and 42% said they would decrease the number of employees.
Do not just take my word for this. I wish to quote from an economist of the Canadian Business magazine, Larry MacDonald, regarding how expanding the CPP would adversely affect businesses:
There doesn't seem to be a real need for it....A jump in CPP premiums makes it more expensive for businesses to maintain a workforce and could lead to job losses.
Not only would this put Canadians out of work, but it would also make things worse for those who stayed employed.
At the end of the day, the money to pay workers needs to come from somewhere. If more is being taken in the form of payroll taxes, then how are employers going to pay their employees?
According to Laura Jones, the executive vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, “small businesses report that a mandatory CPP increase would force many to lower wages and even reduce their workforce”. Why, at the time when the economy is starting to rebound, would the NDP want to slap down workers by cutting their wages?
How would this help Canadian families? The only thing this would do is make it more difficult for Canadians to meet their mortgage payments, enrol their children in after school activities or, even worse, afford the grocery bills.
The NDP needs to consider the ramifications of its proposal, because it seems pretty clear that it has not given this much thought as to how this would impact employers and employees.
Not only does this proposal make no economic sense, but it overlooks the fact that Canada currently has a retirement income system that is the envy of the world.
Since 2006, our government has introduced a number of measures that have enhanced the well-being of all seniors by providing them with the services and financial support they need.
It seems clear the NDP has not taken note of this, so I will take some time to explain Canada's retirement income system to it and, perhaps, it will see why it is the envy of the world.
Through the Canada pension plan, we are providing a secure, indexed, lifelong retirement benefit. To ensure the CPP remains on solid footing, it is regularly reviewed by the federal and provincial governments, which are the joint stewards of the plan.
The NDP may be interested to know that the last financial review of the CPP, completed in 2012 by federal, provincial and territorial ministers of finance, confirmed that the plan was sustainable for at least the next 75 years. This is at the current contribution rate of 9.9% of pensionable earnings. In other words, there is no need to increase the contribution rate at this time.
Canada's retirement income system also provides tax assisted private savings opportunities to help encourage Canadians to accumulate additional savings for their retirement.
I am also talking about retirement savings plans, like the registered pension plan and the registered retirement savings plan, both of which are very efficient vehicles in helping retirees.
The RPPs are sponsored by employers on a voluntary basis and can be either a defined contribution or a defined benefit with employers and, in many cases, employees responsible for making these contributions.
The RRSPs are voluntary, individual, defined contribution savings plans. Employers may provided a group RRSP for employees and may remit a share of contributions on behalf of their employees.
Contributions to RPPs and RRSPs are deductible from income for tax purposes and investment income earned in these plans is not subject to income tax until withdrawn.
The cost of the tax assistance provided on RPP and RRSP savings is currently estimated at approximately $24 billion per year in forgone revenue for the federal government.
However, that is not all.
In addition, the tax-free savings accounts, a flexible, tax assisted savings account that was introduced by our government in budget 2008, is a valuable tool to help Canadians of all ages meet their savings goal. The tax-free savings account helps all adult Canadians, including seniors, to meet their ongoing savings needs on a tax deferred basis. This includes those who are over the age of 71 who are required to begin withdrawing from registered savings plans like the RRSP.
However, that is not the only way our government is helping Canadians ensure they have more money available when they retire. Since 2006, our government has introduced a number of measures to assist seniors and pensioners. Together, these measures are providing about $2.7 billion in additional annual targeted tax relief to those Canadians.
Let me review some of these tax saving measures.
We introduced the pension income splitting with a spouse. We increased the age credit amount by $2,000. There was a doubling of the pension income credit by $2,000. We increased the amount of the guaranteed income supplement that GIS recipients could earn through employment without any reduction in GIS benefits. We increased the age limit for RRSP to RRIF mandatory withdrawal conversion to age 71 from 69. We introduced the largest GIS increase in over 25 years which gave eligible low-income seniors get additional benefits of up to $600 for single seniors and $840 for couples, helping more than 680,000 seniors across Canada.
Overall, this action has helped remove more than 380,000 seniors from the tax role. In fact, in 2013 a single senior can earn at least $19,800 and a senior couple at least $39,700 before paying federal income tax.
There is still more. Seniors also benefit substantially from the many tax reduction measures our government has introduced. For example, we have reduced the goods and services tax to 5% from 7%. We have reduced the lowest personal income tax rate to 15% from 16%. We have increased the basic personal amount that all Canadians can earn without paying federal income tax. We have increased the upper limit of the two lowest personal income tax brackets, ensuring that a greater proportion of income is taxed at a lower rate.
Clearly, our Conservative government has a strong record of supporting Canada's seniors.
However, not only is our government helping the seniors of today, but we are also introducing measures to help seniors of tomorrow. I refer to the pooled registered pension plan. While the New Democrats are advancing a proposal that we kill jobs and hurt Canada's economy, our government is working with the provinces to introduce this new pension option. The pooled registered pension plan, the PRPP, is a large scale, broad-based pension arrangement. By pooling pension savings, the costs of administering these pension plans will be spread over a large group of people which will allow plan members to benefit from lower investment management costs.
PRPPs will be available to employees with or without the participating employer as well as to the self-employed. This is significant as 60% of Canadians do not have access to a workplace pension. However, with the PRPP, these Canadians will now have access to a low cost workplace pension for the very first time. That means more money in the pockets of Canadians when they reach retirement age.
Not only do PRPPs benefit employees, they also mark a significant advance for small and medium-sized businesses. Small and medium-sized businesses have, until now, experienced significant barriers to being able to offer a pension plan to their employees. However, under a PRPP, most of the administrative and legal burdens associated with a pension plan will be borne by a qualified, licensed third party administrator. Indeed, just this past September Manulife Financial became the first to be issued a licence to administer a federal PRPP.
Here is what Sue Reibel, senior vice-president, had to say about this:
PRPPs have been designed to make it simple and easy for Canadian small businesses to provide a cost effective retirement savings plan to their employees....Today’s approval marks an important first step in enabling many more businesses to help their employees put money away for their retirement...
The PRPP is an effective pension option for millions of Canadians who currently do not have access to a workplace pension plan. That is why we are urging the provinces that have not yet brought forward legislation to implement the PRPP to do so in a timely manner.
If the New Democrats really care about retirement security, they will not be advocating a proposal to kill Canadian jobs. Rather they should be supporting our government's effort to have every province in Canada implement legislation, making PRPPs available all across Canada.
Unfortunately, the NDP does not appear to think that the retirement security of Canadians is important. Believe it or not, the NDP actually voted against our government's legislation that introduced the federal PRPP framework. Indeed, the New Democrats opposed this legislation every step of the way, representing the interests of union bosses rather than the interests of Canadians. They voted against a measure that would help millions of Canadians prepare for their retirement. They pretend to be concerned about retirement security by supporting a proposal that would put Canadians out of work or, at the very least, decrease their wages. This is shameful.
Thankfully, our government is committed to ensuring the ongoing strength of Canada's retirement income system. Not only are we working to introduce measures that would actually help Canadians save for their retirement, like the PRPP, but we understand that during a fragile economic recovery is not the time to increase payroll taxes on employees. Now is simply not the appropriate time to increase the premium for the Canada pension plan.
- MPconMon 2:30 pm | Ontario, Elgin—Middlesex—London
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for her words. I cannot say kind words.
I did not drive here in my limousine. I did not drive here disrespecting the poor and the needy in this country.
I have spent my life as a small business owner. I have spent my life being involved in the community in which I live, in many community projects, like the ones she talked about, whether they are food banks or Christmas care, and many of them anonymously. They are not done for pride or pleasure. They are done because one is a member of the community and ones does it.
Many small business owners like me for years have contributed to the Canada pension plan, but not as applicants and not as people who will collect a Canada pension. It is because we are business owners and we have to match what the employees put in. I am sorry, I cannot do the calculations right now. I am sure it is hundreds of thousands of dollars I have contributed to the Canada pension plan, without qualifying for it myself until I took this job, until the people of my neighbourhood, because I was a compassionate business person, elected me to the House of Commons.
What the members are asking is that small business people take money out of their pockets and do it again. It has been said that we could do it with a cup of coffee. Just the other day, the Ontario government said that the price of a cup of coffee a day is how much they are going to raise hydro. The day before that, there was somebody else.
From the guy who sells people the cup of coffee, I cannot afford to go without the cup being sold. If it is not sold by us, I cannot afford the extra cost of the Canada pension plan contributions. That will be the cost in our communities. It will be the small business owner who is no longer able to be involved in these projects, as the member stated.
- MPndpMon 2:15 pm | Ontario, Parkdale—High Park
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague opposite for his thoughtful question, but I ask him to consider the proposition of paying the cost of a cup of coffee and getting an extra $3,000 a year in pension benefit increases. That sounds like a pretty darn good deal for just the cost of a cup of coffee, for $2. The solution to someone who is cash-strapped today is not to have them fall into even greater poverty tomorrow.
For my friends in small businesses, I come from a riding that is full of remarkable small businesses. I know how tough it is for those small businesses, which are getting gouged by credit card fees in their stores. They operate close to the wire, but I say to them that the best thing for small businesses is retirees with cash in their pockets.
Is that not what small businesses want? They want customers with money.
- MPlibMon 2:15 pm | Ontario, Markham—Unionville
Mr. Speaker, I would just like to clarify one point. I think the hon. member referred to us as, in some sense, substituting the voluntary CPP for the real one. I would remind her that it was the Liberal government, under Lester Pearson, that brought in the CPP in the first place. It was Paul Martin who fixed it and made it sustainable. We are more committed than, or at least as committed as, any other party to the long-run sustainability of the existing Canada pension plan and we are open to moderate increases in the size of it over time.
Regarding the supplemental Canada pension plan, we want to consider that as an addition, not as an alternative. I made reference to the British experience, where because they have auto-enrolment, even though it is voluntary, over 90% of employees decide to stay in it. It is voluntary, but 90% of the people elect to stay in it.
I would ask if the hon. member understands the long-term commitment of the Liberal Party, our definitive commitment to the existing CPP, and the point that our supplemental CPP, while voluntary, is set up in such a way that many people will choose to participate.
- MPconMon 2:10 pm | Ontario, Ottawa West—Nepean
Mr. Speaker, I represent a constituency, Ottawa West—Nepean, which has one of the fifth or sixth highest percentages of seniors. There is a good number of elderly women, many of whom do not have a defined benefit pension and rely on the public system. This is an issue that I follow very closely.
We could say that there is a certain attractiveness to expanding the Canada pension plan, but I say to the member opposite that it always comes down to how we are going to pay for it. Can Canadian employers afford to take on a not insignificant increase in payroll taxes? We know from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business that payroll taxes are the toughest on employers and on creating new jobs for small businesses and medium-sized enterprises in particular.
What do we say to the average Canadian worker, someone who is middle class and maybe making $35,000 or $40,000 a year, struggling to make ends meet? Their hydro bills are going up, particularly in Ontario. They are facing a tough go. Not all Canadians or Ontarians have the money to pay these increased payroll taxes, which they would be required to pay. It is not an issue of whether it is a payroll tax or a contribution, they do not have any cash in their pockets to put out. This is the case for many of the people that I represent.
While the idea has certain attractive elements to it, does the member not concede that there are far too many Canadians who simply do not have the money to be able to make increased contributions because they are having a tough time making ends meet today?
- MPndpMon 2:00 pm | Ontario, Parkdale—High Park
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to participate in the debate today. I will be sharing my time with the member for Gatineau.
I would like to thank my NDP colleague from Victoria for submitting this motion and his tremendous work on the issue of pensions, which affect so many Canadians. For the benefit of those participating in the debate and for Canadians watching the debate, I will read the motion so that it is clear what we are discussing.
The motion reads as follows:
That the House call on the government to commit to supporting an immediate phase-in of increases to basic public pension benefits under the Canada and Quebec Pension Plans at the upcoming meeting of federal, provincial and territorial finance ministers.
The meeting is to take place this month at Meech Lake.
The motion does not specify exactly what form these increases would take or the rate of increase, but it does say that the ministers should take the opportunity to address this issue without delay at the meeting at Meech Lake.
That is because, as many are now recognizing, Canada is facing a retirement security crisis. Nearly a third of Canadians face a drop of more than 20% in their standard of living by the time they face retirement. I see this frequently in my riding of Parkdale—High Park. Constituents come to my office and say they had no idea how financially strapped they would be when they retired.
They kind of expected there would be enough through the Canada and Quebec pension plans to support them in their retirement years, and let us be very clear that the Canada and Quebec funds are absolutely rock-solid and that this program is the most solid pension base that Canadians could ever want. It is indexed to inflation and it is portable no matter where a person worked. No matter where one goes in the country, people have access to the same benefits. It is a rock-solid investment that Canadians can be confident in for many decades to come. The major problem is that the benefits that it currently pays out are not sufficient to guarantee retirement security for Canadians.
The reason so many Canadians are facing a steep decline in their retirement income is that the vast majority of Canadians do not have a private pension plan, a company pension plan, an employer pension plan, or RRSPs. Canadians who had RRSPs and who became unemployed would often have to take the money out of their RRSPs, and they did not have other investments. The reality is that most Canadians rely on the Canada and Quebec pension plans, but the problem is that it does not replace enough of people's pre-retirement income. That is why so many agree that there is a retirement security crisis looming in this country.
Last year the finance minister agreed with this assessment, and he agreed to move forward to increase CPP and QPP benefits. However, now he does not seem to even want to meet with the provincial finance ministers. He has been ducking and diving on this issue, so New Democrats want to encourage him to address it.
We know that our colleagues in the Liberal Party have proposed a voluntary plan; we believe that what Canadians need is a mandatory plan that will guarantee their retirement income, and that is what we are proposing.
What we are proposing is completely affordable. Let me share with my colleagues some costing that my colleague from Victoria has done.
There are a variety of ways to increase the CPP. One is the plan proposed by the Canadian Labour Congress, which would lead to a doubling of benefits. That would cost about $4 a week, the cost of a couple of cups of coffee a week. That would be the cost to double the retirement benefits for Canadians.
However, there are other proposals that are out there. P.E.I. has a proposal that would cost less than $2 a week. What would that mean for Canadians? It would provide additional pension benefits for Canadians of $3,000 each year. That sounds like a pretty darn good deal. I do not think there is any investment that Canadians could find that would give them that kind of return with the security and surety of the Canada pension plan.
It is not just New Democrats who are saying this makes sense. As we have heard, there was an editorial today in The Globe and Mail, not exactly a radical leftist newspaper, I am told. Let me quote from it. With regard to expanding CPP, it says:
It should be done, and it should be done soon. Conservatives of the large and small-c variety have long been uncomfortable with a bigger national pension plan. It sounds like a tax increase. It's not. It's a savings plan. And it's the best one we've got.
I wholeheartedly agree.
Let us look at some others. We have an expert on payroll taxes, Rhys Kesselman, the Canada Research Chair on Public Finance at the School of Public Policy at Simon Fraser University. Here is what he has to say:
Since the proposed CPP premium hikes would provide workers correspondingly higher benefits in retirement, they are not like an ordinary payroll tax increase. Rather, they are like an individual's payment for improved insurance coverage.
That is what it is, retirement insurance.
He went on to say:
This premium-benefit linkage means that CPP premiums lack the disincentive effects of most taxes.
In other words, it is not a negative but a positive.
He also said:
Concern over the effects of CPP premium hikes is unwarranted and should not be allowed to block this important policy reform any longer.
We wholeheartedly agree.
Let us hear what the OECD pension team has to say about Canada's pension plan. Edward Whitehouse, leader of the OECD pension team, said:
The analysis suggests that Canada does not face major challenges of financial sustainability with its public pension schemes. ... Long-term projections show that a public retirement-income provision is financially sustainable.
That is what we said earlier: our public pension plan is sound.
He went on to say:
Population ageing will naturally increase public pension spending, but the rate of growth is lower and the starting point better than many OECD countries. Moreover, the earnings-related public schemes (CPP/QPP) have built up substantial reserves to meet these future liabilities.
He is convinced that we have the capacity with our current plan.
Another Globe and Mail article also said:
On the other hand, Canada is different because, unlike most other countries, our public pension commitments are not a substantial threat to our public finances. The Canada Pension Plan is in long-run balance. Old Age Security takes only 2.41 per cent of GDP. Very few OECD countries have lower levels of public pension spending as a share of GDP than Canada.
To take the extreme example, Italy spends more than 14% of GDP on public pensions, up 10% from only a few years ago; we are at 2.41% of GDP.
We have the support for this initiative. As I said, The Globe and Mail, tax experts, and the Canadian Association of Retired Persons just want us to get on with this. Even the CIBC economics report said that the CPP is a good plan, saying, “The CPP has the scale to make big investments and get better returns with relatively low cost.”
Canadians rely on the Canada and Quebec pension plans. We have to make them better and stronger so that they cover more of people's post-retirement income. We can do it.
Let us get together in the House and address this crisis now. Let us make it happen.
- MPconMon 2:00 pm | Alberta, Calgary Northeast
Mr. Speaker, I would remind the member that in 2012, the most recent review of the CPP confirmed that it is sustainable at the current contribution rate of 9.9% and it is sustainable for at least 75 years.
The member opposite is well aware that the global economic environment remains fragile. She also knows that global growth has been weaker than expected, with growth in advanced economies stabilizing at a relatively slow pace, while growth in emerging markets has slowed. In light of so many factors, it is not surprising that the International Monetary Fund recently revised downward its outlook for real GDP growth in both advanced and emerging economies.
Coming back to my consultations with my constituents, this is what Daljit Randhawa, from Best Buy Furniture, had to say:
Currently, we have 16 employees, so an increase of $1,130 per employee would mean an additional $17,600 in payroll costs for our business.
I will share this also. In my own law firm, the first thing my partner does is ask my wife, Neetu Shory, to look into how much it would actually cost to hire another employee in our law firm. That is the basis for new employees.
- MPconMon 1:55 pm | Alberta, Calgary Northeast
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for an intelligent question. I agree with him that some of the provinces have shown their concerns. For the record, let me quote what Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said:
We have some issues about what that will mean to small business owners in this province, and what is the impact on low-income Nova Scotians and Canadians.
Talking about the quotes, I have consulted some small business owners in my own riding in Calgary Northeast. Romi Sidhu has nine employees. He owns an insurance agency. He said that an increase in the CPP employer contribution would mean that he would need to reconsider the expansion plans that he has for his insurance agency.
On top of that, another employer, Bobby Kular from Kular Enterprises Ltd., said he has seven employees and he agrees with Romi Sidhu.
- MPlibMon 1:55 pm | Ontario, York West
Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by congratulating the NDP and my colleagues for having the foresight to put a motion forward to talk about something as important as the pension systems in Canada. We have to find different ways of helping Canadians. People need jobs. Another investment is making sure that we have a viable economy is to ensure that jobs are being produced. At the same time, we have to encourage Canadians to contribute where there are positive vehicles to do that.
The CPP plan was introduced by a previous Liberal government. It has been amazingly successful. I often ask people who hollered and screamed that they did not want the CPP when it came out as to what they would do without it today.
The issue we are now discussing is about finding ways of enhancing and expanding the CPP as an avenue to help people recognize that they need to contribute. This is a great vehicle to do that. The New Democrats are not suggesting how much; the motion talks about how we could better invest and how we would move forward.
How can the hon. member on the other side possibly disagree on having a conversation about helping Canadians retire with a good quality of life and sufficient money?
- MPconMon 1:50 pm | Alberta, Calgary Northeast
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from the other side. I was in the House this morning when he made his opening speech. Let me quote what he said this morning.
He stated, “How can people be expected to voluntarily save when Canadians already have the highest household debt rate in history? To suggest people should voluntarily save, and that will do the trick, ignores the reality that most working people and an increasingly large number of middle-class Canadians as well are not able to save. [...] why take a chance on a voluntary program?”
I welcomed these words from the hon. member for Victoria, whose motion we are discussing today. I think it cuts to the core of what we are really talking about.
The NDP is suggesting to increase the CPP contributions on the very people it admits cannot afford these increases. The NDP would have middle and lower income Canadians choose between rent, groceries and heat for their children, in order to satisfy its own social agenda.
- MPconMon 1:30 pm | Alberta, Calgary Northeast
Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I would like to express heartfelt condolences from the Shory family and from the constituents of Calgary Northeast to the family and friends of Nelson Mandela and the nation of South Africa. Mandela's long walk to freedom left a lasting legacy for his people, leading to them to peace, not retribution.
Mandela once said:
When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace.
Indeed, he can rest in peace now.
Today, I appreciate the opportunity to respond to the hon. member's motion for debate on expanding the Canada pension plan. Let me be clear. Our Conservative government is focused on what matters to Canadians: growing the economy and helping to create jobs.
Since 2006, we have taken responsible actions to ensure that Canada's economy is well positioned for long-term prosperity. We are on the right track. Thanks to the economic action plan, we have created over one million net new jobs since the end of the recession, nearly 90% of which are full-time positions and more than 80% are in the private sector. This is the best job creation record in the G7 by far. What is more, Statistics Canada recently announced that 21,600 net new jobs were added in November, with the unemployment rate remaining at 6.9%. This is a record of which my constituents of Calgary Northeast and all Canadians can be proud.
However, we know that Canada is not immune to the challenges beyond its borders. The global economy remains fragile, especially in the U.S. and Europe, both among our largest trading partners. Indeed, the sovereign debt crisis in Europe continues to weigh on the confidence of consumers and businesses. Closer to home, a slow recovery in the U.S., as well as uncertainty surrounding the sustainability of its finances, poses the greatest risk to the Canadian economy.
In light of these factors, not surprisingly, the International Monetary Fund recently revised its outlook downward for the real GDP growth in both advanced and emerging economies. In fact, the IMF now projects that growth in advanced economies will average just 1.2% in 2013, down from its previous projection of 1.4%.
With significant risks still remaining in the global economy, Canada must remain well positioned to withstand any shocks arising from beyond its borders. However, for some reason, it is in this challenging economic environment that the NDP unilaterally demands that we expand the Canada pension plan.
While CPP reforms continue to be examined by ourselves and the provinces, we share the concerns of small businesses and their workers of increasing costs in a fragile global recovery. I would like to offer the House some examples of what people think about expanding the CPP at this time.
First, here is what the Canadian Federation of Independent Business had to say:
Small firms believe that the economy cannot manage a significant increase in payroll taxes...Thousands of workers could find themselves with reduced hours or out of a job as a result of employers having to react to higher payroll costs
Similarly, the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association had the following concern:
The restaurant industry is one of the country’s largest employers and the number one place where Canadians get their first-job experience. Increasing CPP premiums puts these opportunities at risk.
There is still more. Writing for Canadian Business magazine, here is what Larry MacDonald had to say:
There doesn't seem to be a real need for it...A jump in CPP premiums makes it more expensive for businesses to maintain a workforce and could lead to job losses.
I could go on and on. There is just so much opposition to this short-sighted NDP proposal to potentially double the CPP.
Why does the NDP want to increase payroll taxes on small businesses? Does the NDP not recognize the vital role that small businesses play in Canada's economy? Does the NDP not recognize that they are essential in creating jobs and economic growth?
Fortunately, our Conservative government understands that small businesses are the cornerstone of Canada's economy. Indeed, that is why since 2006 our government has lowered the small business tax bill by over $28,000. We have achieved this through such measures as reducing the small business tax rate from 12% to 11%, increasing the amount of income eligible to lower the small business tax rate from $300,000 to $500,000 and introducing the job-creating small business hiring tax credit. It is measures like these that have left Canada's entrepreneurs with more money to grow their businesses and create more jobs.
Indeed, we are taking further action to support Canada's job creators.
Through economic action plan 2013, we are extending and expanding the hiring credit for small businesses, which will benefit an estimated 560,000 employers and provide close to $225 million in tax relief in 2013. We are also freezing employment insurance premiums to provide predictability and stability for small businesses. This action will keep $660 million in the pockets of job creators in 2014 alone to be spent on hiring more employees, improving wages and growing their businesses. This is how a responsible government supports job creation. Unlike the opposition, we will not attack job creators with massive tax hikes.
Unfortunately, while we are supporting this vital sector of our economy, the NDP is putting forward proposals that will hurt small businesses. As if a $20 billion carbon tax was not enough, now the NDP is demanding that our government double the CPP, which is a proposal that would kill up to 70,000 Canadians jobs. Once more, the NDP plan would force contributions raised on average by over $1,600 per year. A family with two workers could be forced to pay as much as $2,600 every year. Where does the NDP want the family to find this money? I know that it does not grow on trees. Families may be forced to cut on rent payments, heating or grocery bills.
The NDP is out of touch with the concerns of Canadian families and it has not listened to the concerns of the provinces either.
The NDP claims that a CPP expansion has the support of the provinces. As hon. members should be aware, any expansion of the Canada pension plan would require the support of two-thirds of provinces representing two-thirds of the Canadian population. Had the member done his research, he would have learned that a number of provinces have clearly expressed concerns about the economic impact of higher payroll dedications on workers and their employers at a time when the global economy remains uncertain.
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall has already said that now is not the time for contribution changes or increases.
Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil has said, “some issues about what that will mean to small business owners in this province, and what is the impact on low-income Nova Scotians and Canadians”.
New Brunswick Finance Minister Blaine Higgs stated, “We don't think it's the right time to put on additional costs to business owners and employees”.
Talking for British Columbia, the finance department has said, “B.C. believes pension reforms should not be undertaken before the economy has recovered from the impacts of the recent recession”.
We share these concerns. Why do we share these basic concerns? Because the basic truth that the opposition does not understand is that for many Canadians there is no good retirement plan if they have no job.
That is not to say that the opposition motion is completely without merit. It is actually quite useful in offering us a prime example of how not to go about improving retirement security for Canadians.
The NDP wants to derail our economic recovery, and it wants to raise payroll taxes. It could not care less about the concerns raised by the provinces and small businesses.
In addition, it ignores the fact that Canada's retirement system is already recognized as among the strongest in the world, thanks in large portion to the action plan taken by this Conservative government. Indeed, this is a record of which we are justifiably proud.
Our Conservative government has delivered positive results and offered innovative new options to Canadians working and planning for retirement as well as those who are already in retirement. Our actions have resulted in a very low rate of poverty among seniors.
I would like to take some time to highlight the three pillars of Canada's retirement income system and show the opposition how this system is helping Canadian seniors.
The first pillar, comprising old age security and the guaranteed income supplement program, provide a basic minimum income for seniors, which is funded out of the federal government's revenues. Indeed, the old age security and the guaranteed income supplement are important toward reducing poverty and ensuring basic income support in retirement. That is why our government implemented a new guaranteed income supplement top-up benefit for Canada's most vulnerable seniors. As a result of our changes, more than 680,000 low-income seniors are now receiving additional annual benefits of up to $620 for a single senior and $865 for couples.
Currently the federal government provides approximately $40 billion in OAS/GIS benefits per year to more than 5.2 million Canadians. Given the sheer size of this program and its importance to our retirement system, we recently took steps to ensure that OAS remains on a sustainable path over the long term. We did so because the OAS program was designed for a different time. In the 1970s, there were seven workers for every one person over the age 65; in 20 years, there will be only two. In 1970, life expectancy was age 69 for men and 76 for women; today, it is 79 for men and 83 for women. At the same time, Canada's birth rate is falling.
Canadians are living longer and healthier lives, which, of course, is a good thing. Our changes would ensure OAS is put on a sustainable path so it is there when the next generation of Canadians need it. That is responsible economic leadership.
The Canada pension plan is the second pillar in Canada's retirement income system. It is one where we have already made improvements. Working with the provinces, we modernized the Canada pension plan to make it more flexible for those transitioning out of the workforce, to better reflect the way Canadians currently live, work and retire.
The CPP and Quebec pension plan currently provide approximately $45 billion per year in benefits to about 6.6 million individuals, financed by contributions from workers and employers. I am happy to inform this House that the most recent actuarial report on the CPP by the Chief Actuary, tabled in Parliament on December 3, confirmed that the plan is sustainable at the current contribution rate of 9.9% of pensionable earnings for at least the next 75 years. In other words, the CPP is in good shape and has a great future.
I would like to turn now to the third and final pillar of Canada's retirement income system. The government has provided various tax-assisted private savings opportunities to help Canadians save for their retirement. These include registered pension plans and registered retirement savings plans.
Contributions to RPPs and RRSPs are deductible from income for tax purposes, and investment income earned in these plans is not subject to income tax. The federal tax cost associated with RPP and RRSP savings is significant and currently estimated at approximately $24 billion per year.
Given their importance, we have enhanced the incentives for private savings in a number of ways. In 2009, for example, we consulted Canadians from coast to coast to coast and introduced a number of changes to the framework for federally regulated registered pension plans.
These improvements require the plan sponsors to fund any deficiency that exists at the date the pension plan is terminated. They also provide sponsors of the defined benefit pension plans with more funding flexibility, making them less sensitive to market volatility.
In budget 2008, our government introduced the tax-free savings account, which became available in 2009. The TFSAs are flexible, general purpose, tax-assisted savings accounts that may be used for any purpose, including retirement savings. The TFSA provides greater savings incentives for low and modest income individuals, since neither TFSA investment income nor withdrawals affect eligibility for federal income tested benefits and credits, such as OAS and GIS benefits.
Initially allowing Canadians to save tax free on up to $5,000 each year, our government recently increased the amount by $500. As a result of this action, since 2013 Canadians have been able to benefit from an overall annual tax-free savings contribution limit of $5,500 from TFSAs.
That is not all. Our government has also taken concrete actions to help address what has been identified as a gap on the voluntary side of Canada's retirement income system. While participation in retirement savings vehicles like RPPs and RRSPs is reasonably high for middle and high income earners, some Canadians may not be taking full advantage of these personal retirement savings opportunities. In particular, research has shown that some modest and middle income households may not be saving enough for retirement.
Indeed, more than an estimated 60% of Canadians do not have access to a workplace pension plan. Our government does not believe this is right. This is precisely why we have introduced pooled registered pension plans, or PRPPs. PRPPs will significantly help small and medium-sized businesses and their employees, who until now have not had access to a large-scale, low-cost private pension option. PRPPs will be low cost. By pooling pension savings, the cost of administering these pension funds will be spread over a larger group of people. As a result, plan members will benefit from lower investment management costs.
I would like to remind my NDP friends that unlike CPP expansion, there was federal, provincial and territorial consensus to proceed with PRPPs. Despite this consensus, the NDP felt they did not want to work toward strengthening Canada's retirement income system and they voted against our government's legislation. This legislation ultimately established the federal framework for PRPPs.
In conclusion, our government will continue to work co-operatively with the provinces to explore potential reforms to CPP. That being said, we will not support any course of action that endangers Canadian jobs, including the NDP's risky and ill-advised proposal to double the CPP contributions. We know that the best retirement plan for tomorrow is a job today. The NDP may claim that that it is serous about job creation and economic growth, but it continues to push forward radical policies that Canadians cannot afford.
Indeed, when it comes managing the economy, Canadians can rest assured that our Conservative government will support initiatives that stimulate job creation and economic growth, not measures that will kill jobs and hurt our economy.
Unfortunately, today's motion from the hon. member for Victoria shows that the same cannot be said for the NDP.
- MPconMon 1:30 pm | Ontario, Simcoe North
It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for La Pointe-de-l'Île, Ethics; the hon. member for York South—Weston, Health; the hon. member for Montcalm, Persons with Disabilities.
Resuming debate, the hon. member for Calgary Northeast.
- MPlibMon 1:15 pm | Ontario, Markham—Unionville
Mr. Speaker, I have a question based on two comments by the member for Toronto—Danforth earlier today, both of which were wrong.
First, he said that my colleague, the member for Kings—Hants, said he was opposed to any increase in the size of the CPP. In fact he told me that he was in favour of a gradual increase, which is the same as what I said and the same as what the Liberal platform said in 2011.
Second, he said that the NDP plan was not to double the CPP, at which point I said, “Okay, then we are not so far apart.” However, I subsequently learned that the NDP platform of 2011 said the following:
We will work with the provinces to bring about increases to your Canada/Quebec Pension Plan benefit, with the eventual goal to double the benefits you receive....
There we have it, right in the NDP platform, saying that the eventual goal is to double the benefits people receive. They do not mention premiums, but presumably those would double too.
Why did the hon. member say that it was not the plan to double the CPP when the NDP's own platform says that is the plan?
- MPlibMon 12:55 pm | Ontario, Markham—Unionville
Mr. Speaker, my question has to do with PRPPs. I do not understand why the hon. member is so keen on them, when The Globe and Mail, in an editorial, just yesterday, asked why we would have yet another voluntary plan, when only one in four Canadians puts one penny into an RRSP. Why would they put more into this? Second, it is a whole lot more costly than the supplementary CPP plan the Liberals have proposed.
If the Liberal plan for supplementary CPP is both a lot cheaper than PRPPs and will get a whole lot more participation through auto-enrolment, why is he favouring PRPPs as opposed to something that is evidently superior with respect to both cost and participation and that does not have any required increase in premiums?
- MPndpMon 12:35 pm | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, every time over the last eight years when the New Democrats have talked about the pension crisis, all the Conservatives start to laugh.
When I go home, I talk to people who are 68 and 69 who cannot afford their house anymore, and I have seen guys going back to work underground in the mines at 70. Why does my hon. colleague think every Conservative over there thinks the idea of people being able to retire in dignity is something to be laughed at?
First, the Conservatives raise the OAS to 67. When we talk about pension reform, they think it is some kind of joke. I would ask my hon. colleague if she thinks perhaps they are not living in the real world where ordinary Canadians live.
- MPndpMon 12:25 pm | Nova Scotia, Halifax
With regard to romance scams taking place in Canada: (a) how many romance scams are estimated to have taken place in Canada, broken down by year from 2006 to 2013; (b) how much money is estimated to have been lost to romance scams, broken down by year from 2006 to 2013; (c) how many romance scams are estimated to go unreported per year; (d) what resources have the RCMP dedicated towards this portfolio; (e) how many convictions have resulted from police investigations into romance scams; (f) what has the government done to educate the public about romance scams; (g) what avenues are available for Canadians to report romance scams; (h) what measures are in place to support the emotional and psychological well-being of romance scam victims; (i) what proportion of romance scam victims end up recovering their financial losses; and (j) what proportion of people convicted of fraud related to romance scams operated from within Canada?
- MPconMon 12:25 pm | Saskatchewan, Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Mr. Speaker, the following questions will be answered today: Nos. 75 and 80.
- MPlibMon 12:25 pm | Nova Scotia, Sydney—Victoria
With regard to government advertising, what are the file numbers for any post-campaign evaluations for any advertising campaign by any department, agency, or crown corporation, relating to (i) any phase of the Economic Action Plan, (ii) the War of 1812 anniversary?
- MPndpMon 12:25 pm | Newfoundland, St. John's East
With regard to medical releases from the Canadian Forces, for the past five years, for each year: (a) what is the total number of medical releases; (b) what was the number of medical releases by province; and (c) in terms of year of service when a member is given a medical release, what was the number of medical releases by each year of service from one to forty years of service?
- MPconMon 12:25 pm | Prince Edward Island, Egmont
Mr. Speaker, the preliminary investigation by the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages concluded that the new structural model for DFO’s scientific libraries does not restrict services to the public or impact the employees under part IV, communications with and services to the public, and part V, language of work, of the Official Languages Act, and the nine complaints received are deemed unfounded under these two parts of the act. The Commissioner of Official Languages has provided recommendations to the department with regard to part VII of the act, advancement of English and French. Fisheries and Oceans Canada supports the promotion of Canada’s national languages and the development of both language communities across this country. In this regard, the department has provided comments to the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages on the preliminary investigation report. Discussions are ongoing, and we look forward to receiving the final report.
- MPlibMon 12:25 pm | Ontario, Markham—Unionville
With regard to the $3.1 billion identified in paragraph 8.21 of the Spring 2013 Report of the Auditor General of Canada, in which years and on which pages can the money be found in the Public Accounts of Canada?
- MPlibMon 12:25 pm | British Columbia, Vancouver Quadra
With regard to the government marijuana-eradication program done under the name “Operation Sabot” that included the Canadian Armed Forces, the RCMP and some provincial authorities: (a) what is the annual cost of this operation for each department; (b) what is the number of personnel affected by this operation and the cost of it; (c) what types and numbers of vehicles were allocated to the operation and at what cost; (d) what number of plants were seized or destroyed annually with this operation; (e) how many people were injured during the operation; and (f) what is the amount of federal money transferred to any provincial authorities to support this operation?
- MPconMon 12:25 pm | British Columbia, Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam
Mr. Speaker, with regard to (a) to (h), the department cannot release data on jobs created or maintained on individual TPC and SADI projects because it is commercially confidential information.
With regard to (i), 18 TPC projects were approved in 2006-07 for a total authorized assistance of $484.6 million.
With regard to (j), in 2007-08, one project was approved for $19.6 million in SADI-authorized assistance. In 2008-09, nine projects were approved for $395.4 million in SADI-authorized assistance. In 2009-10, six projects were approved for $25.4 million in SADI-authorized assistance. In 2010-11, seven projects were approved for $375.6 million in SADI-authorized assistance. In 2011-12, one project was approved for $399,386 in SADI-authorized assistance. In 2012-13, five projects were approved for $73.8 million in SADI-authorized assistance. In 2013-14, two projects have been approved to date for $10.2 million in SADI-authorized assistance.
With regard to (k), 55% of SADI-funded projects are subject to conditional repayment terms based on gross business revenues.
With regard to (l), 59% of total disbursements made through SADI are for projects subject to conditional repayment based on gross business revenues. The dollar value of this subset is $364.1million of $620.7 million in total disbursements.
With regard to (m), 14 projects under SADI have accepted unconditional repayment. The total value of the disbursement for these projects is $256.6 million, representing 41% of the total disbursements.
With regard to (n), Industry Canada regularly adjusts its short-term repayment expectations to reflect current economic realities and the progress of projects within its portfolio. Revised forecasts are published annually as part of the report on plans and priorities supplementary information tables, available at http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/017.nsf/eng/h_07289.html.
With regard to (o), forecast repayment expectations are the amounts reported in reports on plans and priorities, available at http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/017.nsf/eng/07306.html.
With regard to (p), as part of the redesigning of the website, the Industrial Technologies Office executive director authorized the elimination of information that was either no longer relevant, such as outdated industry statistics, or that was already available on the Industry Canada website.
The information about the type, purpose, and disbursement period for each project is available under the following link: http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/icgc.nsf/eng/h_07018.html.
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