Madam Speaker, before I get into the substance of the debate, I would like to draw the members' attention to the fact that I am wearing the prostate cancer tie. As members are aware, November is also known as “Movember”, a month dedicated to raising awareness about prostate cancer.
Quebec has had a wonderful initiative in place since 2010 to support the Fondation du CHU de Québec, which works on prostate cancer research and prevention. Since 2010, a tie has been available for purchase for men to wear to show their support, which is what I am doing today.
This tie is a Surmesur boutique signature design, and this initiative is supported by Pierre Jobin, TVA's new anchor. I applaud him for his involvement, and I want to thank everyone in Quebec for wearing the tie for prostate cancer.
We are here today to talk about Bill C-26, and you tabled all the amendments that we Conservatives proposed, with the support of my colleague, the member for Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola.
I want to pay my respects to you, Madam Speaker, because I have never heard my name so many times in such a short time. I am quite sure that my parents are very proud of that.
We are talking today about the Canada pension plan. It is crystal clear, because there is a huge difference between the vision of the government and our vision. The vision of the government is to pick up more money from the pockets of the people, to pick up more money from the pockets of business owners and essentially those who create wealth and create jobs, whereas our view is to give more tools to people to make their own choices on what they believe is important and to give them the tools to put money aside for retirement.
That is why we object so strongly to Bill C-26. Our parties have two opposing views. At least that much is clear. In politics, sometimes we find some good points in things that we must nevertheless oppose, and vice versa. Sometimes we find that kind of balance in politics.
In this instance, the matter is crystal clear. On the one hand, there is the Liberal vision, which involves taking more money out of Canadians' pockets. On the other hand, there is our vision, which, in contrast, involves giving people tools that enable them to make their own choices regarding saving for retirement based on their own priorities, their income, and their way of life.
Bill C-26 essentially seeks to increase the contributions that workers currently make to CPP. We are currently being taxed roughly 9.9% and the bill would increase that rate to 11.9%.
In other words, this means that the average worker will pay up to $1,000 more a year. For business owners, this means an extra $1,000 per employee. That is why we believe this is not the right thing to do. The government picking taxpayers' pockets and charging business owners more money is bad for the economy. We will have the opportunity to come back to this with some serious statistics to show the consequences.
For seniors, this bill does not change anything. They will not get a penny more and that is a fact. The other thing is that we will have to wait not two, five, 10, or 20 years, but 40 years before this measure takes effect. At the risk of being ageist, I have to say that many of my colleagues will no longer be here in 40 years. I am 52 now, which means I will be 92. I have good genes. My parents are 92 and 93 and in good health. I might be lucky, but one never knows.
People will have to wait 40 years, or two generations, before there is a direct, tangible, and real impact. That is a long time. While they wait, workers and business people will pay even more, which is not a good thing.
We recognize that there are still some seniors living on low incomes today; however, the situation has greatly improved. In 1970, about one in three retirees were living on a low income, compared to 3% today. That is quite the improvement and it is due to the personal savings measures that we established.
The amount saved by Canadians is an important factor. The best way to improve our situation is to save, and Canadians have saved more over the years. In 1990, people saved 7.7% of their income, whereas today they save about twice as much, or 14.1%.
There have been two improvements over the years: the improvement in the situation of seniors and the increase in Canadians' savings. That is why we, the Conservatives, want to move in that direction. We want to provide Canadians with stronger, more responsive, more pertinent, and more effective tools that enable individuals to make their own decisions, according to their conscience, and based on their priorities, income, and choices that suit them. The government must provide savings tools rather than taking more money out of people's pockets.
This bill will be detrimental to the economy. We, the Conservatives, are not the ones saying so. I am pointing this out today, but I am basing what I say on the conclusions of the Department of Finance, which found in a study that this would negatively impact all vectors of the economy. It forecasts reductions in employment, GDP, private investment, disposable income, and personal savings. Those would be the results of Bill C-26.
Baseball players get three strikes and then they are out. This bill has five strikes against Canadians and the country's economy. Not only does this bill take $1,000 out of people's pockets and charge business owners $1,000 more per employee, it also affects the five key drivers of job creation, savings, and wealth.
We find that unacceptable. That is why we strongly oppose Bill C-26 and why we introduced 69 amendments to eliminate 69 clauses. It makes sense. The amendments that were read earlier show our fierce opposition to every hyphen, semicolon, and letter that do not belong in this bill.
Now let us talk about some things that are quite interesting and important about the future, which is the retirement age.
As members know, people's health has improved. When Canada decided to implement the Canada pension plan a few decades ago in the 1960s, the reality was not the same as today. In the 1960s, the life expectancy of men was 68, but today it is 79. It is 11 years more than when the Canada pension plan was tabled. It is along the same track for women, whose life expectancy in the 1960s was 74 and today is 83. Therefore, the health of people is better and people live longer.
However, the government decided a month ago to cancel the previous government's decision to raise the retirement age from 65 to 67 and return it to 65. This was one of the worst economic decisions made by the current government. There are so many bad decisions, but one of the worst for its long-term effects is its change to the retirement age.
In 2012, when the previous Conservative government addressed this issue, for sure it was very courageous in addressing what was a very difficult issue, and for sure realistic and responsible, because it was the right thing to do and we did it with pride. Unfortunately, the current government has failed to recognize the reality of that. This is why today it will cost Canada billions of dollars more. The current government has failed to recognize the reality of the fact that people live longer, and with that, we can achieve so much more.
Given the current circumstances, lowering the age of retirement from 67 to 65 is one of the worst decisions this government has made.
In 2012, the Conservative government made a courageous decision that was not easy to explain to Canadians. However, we made it with honour and dignity because it was realistic and extremely important for Canada's economic future. Unfortunately, this government decided to reverse that decision and change the age of retirement from 67 back to 65.
That does not make any sense, particularly when we take into account the fact that there is a longer life expectancy. When the Canada pension plan was designed in the 1960s, life expectancy was 68 years for men and 74 years for women. Today, the life expectancy of men is 79, while women can expect to live to 83.
Since Canadians have a longer life expectancy and are in better health, they can continue to work longer. However, this government decided to bring the age of retirement back to 65.
The sad part is that this was not an easy thing for the Conservatives to do. We recognize that. It was a politically difficult decision to make. However, that was what had to be done, and the measure was implemented. It became a fait accompli, and the public accepted that decision.
However, now, the government is reversing that decision, which is sad because it will have a major impact on the rest of the economy.
Mr. Raj Grewal (Brampton East, Lib.):
Madam Speaker, as you know, a stronger Canada pension plan was a key part of the promise Liberals made to Canadians when we pledged to help the middle class and those working hard to join it. Then, in June, the Minister of Finance reached a historic agreement in principle with the provinces to enhance the Canada pension plan. It is an example of the results that can be achieved when the federal government has provincial partners. The legislation before the House is the next step toward implementing the commitment to enhance the CPP.
Why should we enhance the CPP? It is because achieving a safe, secure, and dignified retirement is, without a doubt, among the most significant goals for hard-working Canadians. We know that middle-class Canadians are working harder than ever and that many are worried they will not have enough to set aside for retirement. That feeling is palpable. When we knock on doors and hold town halls to talk to people and discuss the work of government, we find their concerns to be very well founded. Extensive analysis conducted by the finance department and provincial governments has found that around one-quarter of families nearing retirement, some 1.1 million families, face a drop in their standard of living when they retire. The middle class deserves better.
This conclusion led us to work toward our agreed enhancement to the CPP with the provinces. What are the benefits? First, there will be more money in the CPP waiting for Canadians when they retire. Once fully in place, the CPP enhancement would increase the maximum CPP retirement benefit by about 50%. The current maximum benefit is $13,110. In today's dollar terms, the enhanced CPP would represent an increase of nearly $7,000, to a maximum benefit of nearly $20,000. The Department of Finance has estimated that by strengthening the CPP, we would reduce by about a quarter the share of families at risk of not having adequate retirement savings.
We on this side of the House are proud to be able to take this bold action to support middle-class Canadians by strengthening their retirement incomes. Without a doubt, a stronger CPP would be good for the middle class and those working hard to join it, and good for the Canadian economy overall. For most Canadians, these increased benefits would come from just a 1% increase in their contribution rates. We are also making sure to give individuals and their employers plenty of time to adjust to the modest increases, making sure these are small and gradual, starting in 2019.
Today's legislation, as agreed with the provinces, would ensure that low-income Canadians would not be financially burdened as a result of their extra contributions. It would do this by enhancing the working income tax benefit to roughly offset the incremental CPP contributions, leaving eligible low-income Canadians with little to no change in disposable income while still securing them with a higher retirement income.
The enhanced CPP would simply build on the core existing CPP benefits and do so in a smart, carefully targeted, and effective way that reflects the extensive research that governments brought to the table in crafting this enhancement for the benefit of all working Canadians. Taken together, it is a comprehensive package that would increase CPP benefits while striking an appropriate balance between short-term economic considerations and long-term gains.
It is for these reasons that I call on all members of the House to support this legislation, support Canadians, and ensure that all Canadians have a safe, secure retirement.
Mr. Scott Duvall (Hamilton Mountain, NDP):
Madam Speaker, on October 6, the current government introduced a flawed bill in the House of Commons, Bill C-26. It did so while being fully aware of the bill's shortcomings. It did so with full knowledge that women and people living with disabilities would be negatively affected. That the bill would omit dropout provisions already in the Canada pension plan to protect women and people living with disabilities seemed to matter very little. Getting a deal done quickly, the PR, and the photo-op were more important. Looking good was more important. Sadly, looking good is more important to the government than sound public policy that protects the rights and needs of all Canadians.
Removing the dropout provision from the CPP was a surprise to many experts who have been working on a pension reform for many years. While testifying at committee, I asked Mark Janson, a pension expert from CUPE national, if he or his union had any indication that the child-rearing or disability dropouts were on the table for CPP expansion. In reply, Mr. Janson said:
||...it was a surprise to us to see they were not included. The signed document the finance ministers put out in June and the backgrounder they produced at the time said nothing about this, so it was only when we saw the legislation. During the years of talks we had not heard that this was an item to be discussed and perhaps changed.
When I asked Mr. Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, about the government's plan to omit the dropout provisions, he was very straightforward. He said:
|| [The] committee has a direct responsibility to amend the bill to fix that problem. This is an affront to women's equality in this country, and it is simply wrong. It was corrected in 1997, and we have no business going back and taking that away from women and people who get disability benefits. However, the department came up with a draft. They've made a fundamental mistake, in my view, and it needs to be fixed. This committee has the responsibility to fix that.
|| More than half the workforce today is represented by women. To tell them that they are not going to be treated equally as men in the workforce is wrong and this committee has a responsibility. Equally, the department should come back to say that it made a mistake. This will do very little, I think, in terms of the premium increase. It disadvantages two very important groups in this country, and in my view, it was never discussed during the enhancement.
|| It's fundamentally wrong and given what the government has said about women's equality, I don't think this was intended. It needs to be fixed.
It did not take the NDP long to discover the flaws. At first we wondered if the omission of these critical provisions was an oversight or done on purpose. How could the government leave out provisions designed to protect the well-being of such a large number of Canadians? How could the government leave out provisions originally put into the CPP by the Prime Minister's father after he discovered a major hole in the legislation? We thought that for sure the omission had to be a mistake. However, we have come to find out that it was no mistake at all. We have learned that in the haste to get a deal with the provinces in June, the current government was willing to throw the rights of women and those living with disabilities under the bus. It was a shameful move and, now that they have been exposed, the Liberals should feel ashamed and fix the bill.
I know that many members on the other side of this House realize the government made a mistake. I watch them look down and squirm uncomfortably any time that we raise the deceit in this House or at committee. However, even when they have been exposed and their mistakes are laid bare, the government and all its members still refuse to commit to fixing the bill. Many times, my colleagues and I have stood in this House and asked if the government would fix its flawed bill. For days on end, all we got back were disdain and non-answers. Not one member on the other side of this House would even admit that the bill would trample on the rights of vulnerable Canadians.
We were challenged to take our concerns to committee, so we did. The New Democrats studied the bill and we figured out how to fix it. We developed the language and the clauses needed in the bill to fix the government's mistake. In good faith, we went to committee. We listened to the witnesses, some of whom supported the bill, and some who did not. Many witnesses recognized the flaw in the legislation and urged the committee to put the dropout provisions into the bill.
During the clause-by-clause consideration of the bill, I presented amendments to fix the legislation. My two amendments were all that were needed to put the dropout positions back into the bill. There were two amendments that would restore the protection for women and those living with disability. However, my amendments were ruled out of order. The only way to fix the bill would be to come back to the House and have the minister make the appropriate amendments at that time.
I moved the motion to have the committee consider making these recommendations to the House of Commons. What happened next was shocking and disheartening. The Liberal members on the committee resorted to the lowest form of procedural manoeuvring, and moved and passed the motion to adjourn debate. That meant that a motion to consider fixing the bill could not even be debated or discussed, never mind actually voted on. I could not believe it. It was a clear that a heavy-handed whip had been used. So much for the government of sunny ways, free votes, and the best intentions. It is clear that Canadians who voted for change are receiving nothing but chump change.
A few days later, I was able to bring my motion back to the committee. Again, the Liberal members of the committee proved very clearly that they were not serious about fixing the bill. Instead of even debating my motion, they used another procedural manoeuvre, which guaranteed no immediate fix for the bill. It was shameful and disappointing.
I have mentioned what happened at committee because I want Canadians to know, and I want my constituents to know, that things do not always happen here in Ottawa the way that we think they should. The government had a very easy way of fixing a major flaw in a bill it introduced, a flaw that could affect 14 million Canadian workers. It chose not to. We in the NDP now find ourselves in an awkward position. We plan on supporting the bill, but we are very concerned about whether the CPP will ever be fixed and the necessary dropout provisions included in the legislation.
So far, we have heard from the President of the Treasury Board, who said:
|| We are aware that more could be done in respect of the dropout provisions for disability and child rearing and, in fact, the Minister of Finance will raise these provisions at the next meeting of provincial and territorial finance ministers in December in the context of a triennial review of the CPP.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance said:
|| Our intent is to pass the bill, as is; however, the Minister of Finance will then raise the dropout provisions at the next provincial and territorial finance ministers' meeting in December, in the context of the triennial review of the Canada pension plan.
In my view, these are both weak and non-committal statements. We have heard nothing from the Minister of Finance himself. Is he committed to fixing the legislation? Is he committed to making sure that women and those living with disabilities are not victimized for the mistake in Bill C-26?
No one knows for sure. I am not optimistic. I will believe it when I see it.
Mrs. Salma Zahid (Scarborough Centre, Lib.):
Madam Speaker, it is a privilege to rise in the House today in support of Bill C-26. This is a piece of legislation that would bring peace of mind to millions of Canadians, many of them my constituents, who are worried about their retirement.
With Bill C-26, an act to amend the Canada Pension Plan, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board Act and the Income Tax Act, our government is fulfilling its campaign commitment to reform and enhance the Canada pension plan and help Canadians who are having trouble saving for their retirement.
The CPP is a Canadian success story and it is the right way to help Canadians save for retirement in a world that is very different from that of our parents and our grandparents.
There was a time when Canadians would work for one company all of their life and then retire comfortably with a gold watch and a defined benefit pension plan. Complemented by the Canada pension plan, they could be assured of a comfortable and dignified retirement but sadly, those days are no more. They are over.
It is very rare today to find a defined benefit pension plan outside of the public service. Today, due to costs and risks, most companies have moved to a defined contribution pension plan, which shifts the investment risk to the employee and that is if one is lucky enough to be working for a company that offers any kind of pension at all. According to Statistics Canada, in 2014 only 37.9% of employees had a pension plan and that number was trending down.
Then there is the changing nature of work today. A 2014 Workopolis study found that if current trends continue, average Canadians can expect to hold roughly 15 jobs in their careers. Indeed, 51% of people now stay in any one role for less than two years. Some of this is by choice, but some is also by necessity. Contract work is increasingly prevalent and employees are often seeking new challenges and new opportunities.
In short, Canadians can no longer rely on the traditional retirement savings methods. The onus has now shifted to employees, but the data makes it clear that Canadians are having difficulty with this new responsibility.
A report earlier this year from the Broadbent Institute found that only 47% of those aged 55 to 64 have no accrued employer pension benefits and the vast majority are retiring with inadequate retirement savings. Just half have savings that represent less than one year's worth of the resources they need to supplement old age security and the Canada pension plan, and fewer than 20% have the resources needed for five years of retirement.
According to the report, just 15% to 20% of middle-income Canadians retiring without an employer pension plan have saved anywhere near enough for their retirement. Without action, this means seniors are forced to continue working whether their health allows it or not, or are living their retirement in poverty. No Canadian seniors who have worked hard all their lives deserve to retire in poverty.
I understand why Canadians are having difficulty saving for retirement because I have been there myself. First, my husband and I saved to purchase a home in Scarborough, in the expensive greater Toronto housing market. At the same time, we set aside what money we could to put into a registered education savings plan for our two boys to save for their educations. Our first son started at Ryerson University this fall and our second son is not far behind. All along, my husband and I changed jobs and employers two times and have not had the benefit of an employer pension or savings plans.
I am privileged now as a member of Parliament to have access to an employer pension plan. While I can now worry less about my retirement, millions of Canadians are not as lucky as we are, and many of my constituents are not as lucky. I regularly knock on doors in my riding of Scarborough Centre to stay connected to the concerns of my constituents, and many of them tell me that they are worried about their retirement. For many Canadians, this is one of the most important things on their mind.
Canadians are justly proud of the Canada pension plan. Like our public health care and the Canada child benefit, it is one of those things that helps to define Canada.
It has been a long time, since 1965, when the Liberal government of Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson first established the Canada pension plan. As I have said, we live in a very different world than we did back in 1965, and Canadians face a very different retirement scenario today.
If we are to help Canadians save for their retirement and ensure that our retiring seniors do not slip into poverty, we need an enhanced Canada pension plan. With its efficient administration and strong performance, the Canada pension plan is the right vehicle to use as we seek to provide enhanced retirement savings for Canadians.
With Bill C-26, we would increase the maximum level of pensionable earnings by 14% by 2025. By increasing the amount of retirement pension, as well as the survivor and disability pensions, and the post-retirement fund, we are keeping our commitment of helping Canadians secure a strong, secure, and stable retirement.
We recognize that there will be an impact on both employees and employers, which is why the changes are being phased in gradually over the next seven years, from 2019 to 2025, for these needed investments. Canadians are investing in themselves and in their future. By investing in their employees, businesses will benefit as well. An employee who does not need to worry about their retirement is an employee who is happier and more productive for their employer.
Canadians deserve to retire with dignity. Today, 1.1 million families nearing retirement are facing a drop in their standard of living, but they will be able to retire with dignity when these reforms are fully in place.
Pension reform is an issue that needs national leadership. For years, as the provinces called out for federal leadership to address this growing problem, the previous government stayed silent, while everyday Canadians retired without enough savings to live comfortably.
I am proud to be part of a government that is prepared to lead and make some difficult choices. This is what leadership is about. The finance minister has worked closely with his provincial counterparts to reach an agreement that critics said was impossible.
We do not need to worry about our retirement in this place, but the millions of Canadians we represent do. This bill is for them, and I am proud to support it.
Mr. Tom Lukiwski (Moose Jaw—Lake Centre—Lanigan, CPC):
Madam Speaker, before I begin my remarks on Bill C-26, let me first offer my personal congratulations to everyone in the Ottawa Redblacks organization for a great Grey Cup victory yesterday. It was one of the more exciting games I have seen. A special shout out to Henry Burris, formerly of the Saskatchewan Rough Riders, who played a fantastic game. If that is the last game he plays in this league, it is a fitting exist. It was a magnificent performance.
I have some comments to make about Bill C-26, and, quite frankly, they are extremely critical.
Let again remind members of the definition of a tax. In essence, that is what is contained in Bill C-26. A tax is defined as “A compulsory contribution to state revenue, levied by the government on workers' income and business profits, or added to the cost of some goods, services, and transactions”.
Let us take that definition and examine what is contained in Bill C-26.
Bill C-26 purports to have CPP premiums increased. Are they going to be increased voluntarily or is it compulsory? It is compulsory. Workers and employers alone have no say in the matter.
Is it levied upon workers' incomes and business profits? Most assuredly, it is. Both employers and employees are going to be forced into paying increased premiums.
Therefore, I would suggest, by anyone's definition, that Bill C-26 is a tax. It is a tax increase. It is a business and payroll tax. This is the worst time in Canadian history to be levying new taxes.
I am not a fan of taxes of any sort at any time. However, in the position we are now in Canada, with a sluggish economy, raising taxes is absolutely incoherent to me. It makes no sense. It takes money out of the pockets of people. It reduces the availability of Canadians to save more money. It reduces the ability of businesses to expand and create new jobs, in fact, just the opposite. I have talked to many small business owners who say that a CPP increase will, in eventuality, force them to either close up shop or lay off employees to try to survive. Neither one of those two options is a good one for small business owners.
The thing I cannot quite understand is why the government is trying to pass Bill C-26 now. Frankly, it is simply not necessary. Empirical evidence backs that up.
The government suggests that Bill C-26 is a way to increase retirement benefits for those Canadians who need it most.
When we take a look at the statistics, we find that less 5% of Canadian seniors are living below the poverty line. We have made great strides over the last decades. Only 30 or 40 years ago close to 30% of Canadians were living on low incomes. It is less than 5% now. Where is the need to increase retirement benefits if Canadians themselves are not living below the poverty line?
Additionally, I would point out that Canadians are saving more money now than they ever have in the past, approximately twice the amount they saved in 1990.
I would argue that all Canadians are aware of the responsibilities that come with planning for retirement. Their financial literacy quotient is increasing, and they are taking steps to prepare themselves for retirement.
Once again, if there is no need, why does the government feel it necessary to increase CPP premiums, to put additional taxes on Canadian businesses and Canadian workers? It does not seem to make much sense.
However, I think we can safely say that the reason the government is doing this is that it is part of its DNA. That is why its members are Liberals. They live to increase taxes. This is just one more example of it.
However, what is truly troubling to me is that this paternalistic approach to saying the government knows best, that it will take care of the retirement needs of people, is not only paternalistic, it is insulting to Canadians. In effect, the government is saying that Canadians do not have the capacity to plan for their own retirement, so the government will do it for them.
I have confidence in Canadians. I have confidence that they can plan for their own retirements and they do not need to be told by any government, let alone the current one, how to go about doing that.
I would point out for members of the chamber that there are more opportunities, more investment and retirement vehicles, in the marketplace now than there ever have been before to assist Canadians in planning for their retirements. I make specific reference to the TFSA, the most important advancement in tax avoidance that we have seen since the advent of RRSPs, a vehicle we introduced when our Conservative government was in power.
The TFSA, currently permeated in the Canadian tax base by about 10 million stakeholders who have TFSAs, allows after-tax dollars to be put into a tax-free savings account. The money generated in that account over years is tax free, and is not taxed when that money is taken out.
We introduced this new innovation several years ago when we were in government. We started with a contribution limit of $5,000 per year, the amount Canadians could put into their TFSAs. A few years later, we increased it to $5,500. Then just before the last election, we increased the contribution limit to $10,500 to allow Canadians to put up to $10,500 a year into tax-free savings accounts to help plan and prepare for their retirements.
What did the Liberal government do? It rolled back the TFSA contribution limit, down to $5,500. In other words, it took away the ability of Canadians to put an addition $5,000 into TFSAs. What was the rationale? The Liberals say that Canadians simply do not have $10,000 kicking around at the end of the year. Therefore, since they would not be able to max out their contributions, the government would reduce their ability to even try.
In other words, the government is saying that Canadians could not afford to contribute to TFSAs. What is its answer? Instead of allowing Canadians the opportunity to voluntarily put money into tax-free savings accounts, the government is forcing Canadians, who apparently cannot afford it, to pay money into a state-run pension plan that is taxable when people withdraw their benefits. Canadian investors have no ability to choose the investment vehicle of their choice.
Nothing makes sense about this whatsoever. If Canadians are going to be forced to save, why not allow them to at least put it in tax-free savings accounts? No, that is not the case. They are being forced to put it in the CPP.
Granted, I believe the pension fund managers of the CPP over the years have done a very good job. However, the point is that, as an individual, I would like to control the investment vehicles myself. I want to choose whether I want to put money into mutual funds, stocks, bonds, or other investments, rather than someone telling me what I have to invest in and what my rate of return will be.
Once again, this seems to be a pattern with the government. It has the attitude that government knows best. We have seen this before. The insult to Canadians is that Liberals do not believe Canadians are bright enough to choose wisely with their investment accounts. They believe the government is smarter than Canadian taxpayers.
We can all recall, just a few short years ago, during the federal election campaign, when the Conservative government introduced the universal child care benefit. The chief of staff of the prime minister of the day, Paul Martin, went on television and said that it was a bad idea because if the government gave money directly to parents and let them choose how to raise their children, they would blow it all on beer and popcorn. That is the attitude the current government has. It is paternalistic, it is condescending, and it is insulting. That is why, on this side of the House, we will oppose Bill C-26.
The basic difference between Conservatives and Liberals is this. As Conservatives, we believe in lower taxes, balanced budgets, and smaller governments. The Liberals believe in higher taxes, deficit spending, and much larger governments. Eventually, Canadians will see the light and that is why, on this side of the House, we will be opposing Bill C-26, and opposing it with vigour.
Mr. Gagan Sikand (Mississauga—Streetsville, Lib.):
Madam Speaker, I am proud to speak to Bill C-26 once again. I am confident in the beneficial impact it will have on the lives of hard-working Canadians.
I like to think of the bill as an investment in our future, an investment to ensure that Canadians who have worked hard all their lives will be able to lead the lives they always wanted when they retire. More importantly, the bill is an investment in young Canadians, an investment in our future generations.
With all nine Canada pension plan participating provinces supporting this investment, it is well known that this investment is indeed necessary. By enhancing the Canada pension plan, we are enabling young Canadians to enter the workforce with confidence, knowing that when it comes time for them to retire, they can do so with a stable pension.
Throughout my first year as a member of Parliament, I have spoken with many young Canadians regarding a wide range of issues. As mentioned in my first speech on the bill, the issue of saving for retirement was consistently brought to my attention throughout these conversations. Even though they may be decades away from retirement, with fewer and fewer employers offering a workplace pension plan, young Canadians are very concerned that they will not have enough when they retire.
A 2016 survey conducted by Franklin Templeton indicated that 70% of young Canadians say that retirement makes them anxious. In a 2016 poll conducted by The Globe and Mail, it was discovered that saving for retirement is the second most pressing concern for young Canadians. Why is this? It is because today's young Canadians have grown up in households where not saving enough for retirement has been a constant fear. These young Canadians see the approximately 1.1 million families currently facing the insurmountable fear of not having enough money saved to maintain their standard of living in retirement, and they take on this fear before entering the workforce.
It could be argued that due to the fact that Canadians are living longer, the fear of not saving enough for retirement is greater for young Canadians than it was for their parents, given that they know they have to save more for longer. It is hard for me to believe that in 2016, in our country, our young adults are facing such concerns. Young Canadians entering the workforce should feel like they have their whole lives in front of them, because in reality, they do. However, currently these young Canadians are faced with the intimidating fear of not having enough money saved for retirement, something they should not worry about until much later in their lives.
According to Statistics Canada, Canadians aged 34 and under currently account for 42.5% of Canada's population, and this is expected to increase over the next 15 to 25 years. This is a significant portion of our population that cannot be ignored. It is for this reason that an enhancement of the Canada pension plan is necessary. Bill C-26 is designed to address and ease their concerns.
When speaking with young Canadians in my riding regarding this issue, I have promised that I would be their advocate here in the House of Commons, and by standing here again in support of the bill, I know I am fulfilling that promise.
Now, switching gears a bit, the members opposite have raised concerns that the bill does not benefit low-income Canadians because of the incremental increases in contributions. I would like to remind the members opposite that the bill would also provide an enhancement to the working income tax benefit, which would provide additional benefits that would ultimately offset the incremental increases in contributions. I would also like to remind them that the contributions to the enhanced portion of the Canada pension plan would be deductible.
I am well aware that the members opposite have brought forward other concerns about the bill, but I want to remind these members that our government was able to work with all nine Canada pension plan participating provinces to come to an agreement on this enhancement. This demonstrates that our government is able to effectively work with the provinces. Therefore, I want to assure the members opposite that no matter what concerns they have, our government is able to work with the provinces to make adjustments and fix any problems that may arise in the future. This is something that will be discussed when the minister meets with the provinces next month.
Like many members in this House, I come from a family that immigrated to Canada. My family, like every other, worked hard and made sacrifices so that their families and future generations would not have to face the same struggles. Ultimately, they made these sacrifices in the hopes that future generations would live better lives than they did.
In keeping with this concept, today many Canadians who have worked hard all their lives are now in their later years and are struggling to make ends meet. Many of their employers did not provide a workplace pension plan, and the current Canada pension plan is not strong or stable enough for them to live comfortably. I can guarantee that the Canadians who are currently facing these struggles do not want future generations to face the same struggles they are currently facing.
This government is working hard to ensure that this does not happen. By working with the provinces to reach an agreement and by being strong advocates during the debates in this House, this government is demonstrating its commitment to providing a better life for our country's future generations. Enhancing the Canada pension plan is an investment in our future, and I hope all members of this House feel the same way.
Mr. Alupa Clarke (Beauport—Limoilou, CPC):
Madam Speaker, I was going to rise to ask a question, but it seems that I will be starting my speech now. I would like to say hello to all those Canadians who are watching us right now, especially my constituents in Beauport—Limoilou.
I am very pleased to speak in the House to Bill C-26, regarding the Canada pension plan.
My Conservative colleague from Moose Jaw—Lake Centre—Lanigan spoke just before me. I admire his exemplary oratory skills and aspire to achieve the same some day. He talked about how this bill is typical of this and every Liberal government since the dawn of Canada. In fact, this is about taxing Canadians even more in order to fill the government's coffers to help carry out the Liberal government's agenda.
My colleague also talked about the Liberals' paternalistic approach to everything. All the while, he was able to illustrate with clear and concise definitions that increasing CPP contributions was in fact a tax from an economic and social policy perspective. He described in detail the Liberals' typically paternalistic approach to raising taxes.
That was encouraging to me as I wanted to explain that this bill is typical of this government, one that, despite its claims, has been increasing Canadians' taxes every month since coming to power one year ago.
It cancelled various tax credits that we introduced, such as those for children's sports activities or books and educational items. It refused to move forward with its promise to lower the small business tax, which represents a tax hike. It cancelled the universal child care benefit and replaced it with a benefit that was poorly implemented and that, by 2020, will incur extraordinary costs that were not anticipated. The government did not think of indexation, for example. That is not revenue neutral.
The Liberals have also proposed the Liberal tax on carbon of 11.5¢ a litre, which will soon be implemented. They are also increasing the CPP contribution by $1,000 a year for every employee and every employer. Furthermore, they did not reduce the small business tax. They are also making it more difficult to obtain a mortgage in order to buy a home.
On this side of the House, we understand full well that the exponential growth in real estate prices in places like Vancouver and Toronto is a problem that needs to be addressed. However, the Liberals decided to draft a bill that makes no distinction with respect to the different regions of Canada in order to resolve a problem that is affecting only certain cities.
Bill C-26 is part of a general plan to raise taxes for Canadians. This bill is proof that the Liberals are saying one thing and doing another. For the past year, we have been hearing the Liberals talk about strengthening the middle class, but what we are seeing is that they are imposing more taxes on the middle class and introducing measures that will prevent the middle class from developing as it should.
We could even go so far as to say that the government is using the middle class to achieve its own ends and improve its electoral fortunes three years down the road. The government promised us a modest deficit of $10 billion a year. However, that deficit has now grown to $30 billion because of the government's poor decisions and bad management. To fill its coffers, the government has to raise taxes in all sorts of areas, and that includes the Canada pension plan.
In a nutshell, because of Bill C-26, workers will take home $1,000 less every year and employers and entrepreneurs, the people who lead the way in job creation in Canada, will have to give up another $1,000 per year.
I heard what my Liberal colleague said about seniors working hard all their lives and being entitled to a good Canada pension plan. He was talking about workers who are seniors right now. I stood up to ask him a question. Nowadays, more and more of our seniors keep working after retirement. My father-in-law retired from the Quebec public service a few years ago and is now working part-time. The higher Canada pension plan premium will be deducted from every one of his biweekly paycheques. Moreover, the changes to the Canada pension plan will not come into effect for another 40 years. Many seniors, including anyone who is currently a senior, will not benefit from the higher premiums, which are supposedly intended to reduce poverty among seniors.
I would also like to reiterate what my colleague from Louis-Saint-Laurent was saying a little earlier when he began the debate on Bill C-26. As he explained, what we are seeing right now are two different and opposing political and philosophical outlooks. My colleague from Moose Jaw—Lake Centre—Lanigan provided a good description of the Liberal Party's vision. The Liberals think they know better than Canadians what they should do with their money and how they should use it at the end of the day. That is so paternalistic. It is in this government's DNA. It always thinks it knows better than Canadians what do to about all kinds of things, including how to invest and prepare for a comfortable retirement, if that is possible.
Conversely, we the Conservatives believe that individuals, Canadians themselves, know best what suits them to meet their own needs. That is why, during the 10 years we were in power, we took action and introduced policies that would help return as much money as possible to taxpayers, to maximize the amount of money that would stay in their pockets at the end of the year, as well as maximize the tools available to enable them, in turn, to maximize everything themselves. For instance, I think that the tax-free savings account is an excellent tool. Many people in my immediate family use that measure, as do my neighbours and constituents.
I also want to say that we should look to our ancestors. For example, my great-grandfather built his own retirement nest egg. I am not saying that we should go back to a time when there was no government plan to support those among us who forget to do our due diligence and prepare for old age. However, we must not implement measures that encourage people to neglect their needs and their responsibility to take care of their own retirement. We must always keep in mind the sage advice that our ancestors lived by. In other words, we must create our own nest eggs and ensure that when we reach old age we are able to take care of ourselves as much as possible for as long as possible.
I also think that Bill C-26 reflects two rather different political approaches. I would go so far as to say that my NDP colleagues share this same vision. Currently, every policy from this government is about short-term political gains with a view to re-election in three years, or so they think and want. How many decisions did we make in the past 10 years that were not at all popular? We still went ahead and made them anyway. We were courageous and proud to make those decisions. I am talking about increasing the age of retirement from 65 to 67. That was an extremely courageous and necessary decision. I am sure that I will likely never retire. I will work until I die, as people did for thousands of years. It is too bad.
I wanted to close by saying that one of my hobbies is to watch political debates. I have watched the debates in France, England, and in Germany, and the majority of the western European countries are saying that the age of retirement needs to increase. We said that, but this government is going in the opposite direction. It is very unfortunate.
Ms. Kamal Khera (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health, Lib.):
Madam Speaker, I am honoured to rise in the House today to talk in support of Bill C-26, an act to amend the Canada Pension Plan, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board Act and the Income Tax Act. This is an extremely important piece of legislation that will help millions of hard-working Canadians from coast to coast to coast, including many in my riding of Brampton West.
Opponents who are critical of this legislation often cite the fact that we have hard-working Canadians struggling to make ends meet today. I have residents from my riding calling and meeting with me on a regular basis to express how difficult it has become to support their families. Let me start with a story.
I met a couple with three children from my riding a year ago last November at a coffee shop before my constituency office had even opened. Both parents worked and the father had a second part-time job, yet this family was struggling. They were barely able to feed their children. Unfortunately, their story has become too common in our country. Canadian families that work so hard should not be struggling.
This same family visited me again a couple of months ago in September. They asked me if I could thank our Prime Minister on their behalf. The Canada child benefit that our Prime Minister has championed has taken a huge burden off this family. The increase in the Canada student grants has given this family hope that their children will be able to attend university one day.
This is just one of the many examples of families that have been positively impacted by the reforms our government has introduced to address the urgent issues facing Canadian families.
Short-term stimulus is extremely important. However, to generally serve Canadians our government must deliver for Canadians in the long-term as well. We need to give Canadians hope for their future. We need to ensure that all Canadians are given the opportunity to have a strong, safe, and secure retirement. Ensuring that all Canadians have the support of a pension plan that helps them maintain their standard of living after they retire is essential to achieving this objective.
Canadians value the long-term pension security provided by the Canada pension plan since its inception over 50 years ago by Lester B. Pearson's government. One of the harsh realities of today's economic climate is that it is becoming increasingly difficult for Canadians to plan and save for their retirement years. The cost of living in Canada continues to spike sharply. Retirement savings and the pension plans of Canadians are not keeping pace. The life expectancy of Canadians is going up. As a result, an increasing number of Canadians will be forced to reduce their standard of living in their retirement years.
I have heard these issues loud and clear at the doorsteps, in our town halls, at community events, and in my constituency office. Last week, one of my constituents said that if it is this difficult now, what would he do when he retires and needs to live on a fixed income? What would his grandchildren do? How would they support themselves in their retirement? This is a real and growing concern for middle-class Canadians. As I said, the cost of living in Canada is rising. The cost of food is increasing, particularly healthy foods. The cost of leasing an apartment is increasing. Transportation costs continue to go up. These trends are expected to continue and will increasingly burden Canadian families in their retirement years.
I see that my time is up for now. I will continue my remarks after question period.