The House resumed from June 11 consideration of the motion that Bill C-25, An Act relating to pooled registered pension plans and making related amendments to other Acts, be read the third time and passed, and of the motion that this question be now put.
Mr. Mark Adler (York Centre, CPC):
Madam Speaker, it is my great pleasure to rise today to speak to Bill C-25, the pooled registered pension plan.
I want to congratulate the Minister of State for Finance on the amazing and wonderful work he has done on this bill and on chairing the committee headed up by the minister and all the provincial finance ministers. I want to congratulate him on his efforts in guiding this bill through the House of Commons.
I have been a member of Parliament now for a little over a year. What has really struck me in my time here so far is the negativity I hear from across the aisle from the nattering nabobs of negativism. No matter how good a public policy initiative is coming out of this government—
An hon. member: It's all good.
Mr. Mark Adler: —and it is all good, the members opposite oppose it.
I am reminded of the movie A Few Good Men. Jack Nicholson is on the stand and is being cross-examined by Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise says, “I want the truth”, and Jack Nicholson barks back, “You can't handle the truth”. Those are the people we are opposing on the other side of the House. They cannot handle the truth. They prefer to live with Tattoo on Fantasy Island, and those in the third party, well, they are just Lost in Space.
As a government, we have the responsibility to make decisions. We have a heavy burden on this side. We are the only party standing in the way of the NDP forming government. That is a very heavy burden, one which we do not take lightly.
We on this side are not concerned about 2015. We hear about the NDP and its rush to form government in 2015. In fact, I hear it is even cornering the market on orange carpeting for their ministerial offices already. Let me say one thing. We on this side are not concerned about 2015. We are concerned about 2020, 2030, 2040, 2050. The legislation we are proposing is not just to get us to the next election. We are proposing legislation that is good for our children, our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren for generations to come.
Before I speak specifically to the bill, I will talk about where we are in terms of our economic situation. We are number one in the G8 in terms of economic performance.
An hon. member: Thanks to this government.
Mr. Mark Adler: The member is right. It is thanks to this government.
We have recovered all of the jobs that we lost during the recession. Since July 2009, we have created 765,000 net new jobs. The World Economic Forum says we have the strongest financial and banking system of any country around the world. Forbes magazine says we are the best place to do business.
A few months ago, Governor Branstad of Iowa said on Meet the Press, “The Canadian government has reduced their corporate income tax to 15%. I've had companies that I've called on in Chicago to come to Iowa say, 'We like Iowa, but if they don't change the federal corporate income tax, we're probably going to go to Canada'”.
It is all about the profits, and with profits come jobs. Moody's has given us a AAA credit rating again, as has Fitch.
Our strong economy, the jobs we have recovered and being number one in the G8 are not good enough. We are not standing still with that. I will be speaking to Bill C-38, the budget implementation bill, tomorrow.
Everything we do on this side of the House, every legislative initiative, has a purpose. Everything is tied together. It is part of our comprehensive plan. Again, it is for Canada's future. We are investing in Canada's future, in our people, not in the next election.
With respect to our retirement system, we have identified that 60% of Canadians will not have a sufficient amount of money to retire. That is unacceptable to the government. That is why we have put forward Bill C-25, the pooled registered pension plans act. Under this plan, we will add a fourth pillar to the retirement income system that we have.
Let us take a look at our retirement income system as it stands today. We have the OAS and the GIS. We increased the GIS in last year's budget by 25%, the largest increase in the history of the GIS, and it was opposed not once but twice by the opposition. In fact, the first time the opposition forced an election because it was opposed to the initiatives we had in our budget, particularly those to create jobs and to help seniors.
The second pillar is the CPP and the QPP. Both are actuarially sound, yet we still took time to improve the CPP under its mandatory five-year review.
The third pillar is the RPP and the RRSP. The RRSP is an interesting vehicle. That vehicle is open to all Canadians; however, we find that $600 billion is underfunded in the RRSP. This indicates that people are not saving enough for retirement. That is a problem.
What else have we done to help seniors in this country? We have given them, on average, $2.3 billion in tax relief. We have given our seniors pension income splitting. We have doubled the maximum amount of income eligible for pension income credit. We have established the TFSA.
The PRPP is needed in our country. I will close with a personal anecdote. My father was an immigrant to the country and he worked hard. I remember when I was a young fellow looking through the window late at night, waiting for my father to come home. He would pull up in the car, which had a very distinctive sound. I remember running to the window and watching him get out of the car. He was so tired he could barely drag himself out of the car and get into the house.
My father did not have a retirement income mechanism in place at the time. My father has since passed away. My father owned a shoe store and had one employee. It was a small business. This would have been so beneficial for him and his family, and for the employee and her family.
This is the kind of country we are trying to create in Canada, where our seniors have a proper amount of income so that they can retire in dignity and live a full life of quality.
Mr. Harold Albrecht (Kitchener—Conestoga, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to some key measures in Bill C-25, an act that would implement the federal framework for pooled registered pension plans, or PRPPs.
This Conservative government stands with hard-working Canadians who are counting on their pension plan for a stable retirement. As part of this commitment, we continue to take the steps necessary to ensure that Canada's pension framework remains strong. In doing so, we are building on all that has been accomplished so far.
I will offer a few examples of what we have already achieved.
In 2009, we announced an improved regulatory framework to better protect members of federally-regulated pension plans. This included reducing funding volatility for defined benefit plans, making it easier for participants to negotiate changes to their pension arrangements. We ensured that pension plans were fully funded when they were terminated and we modernized the investment rules.
At the same time, the federal government, along with the provinces, agreed to a number of improvements to the Canada pension plan that would modernize the plan and would better reflect the way Canadians live, work and retire.
The hon. members on the other side should know that pensions share joint jurisdiction with the provinces. Only by continuing to work with the provinces will we make the system better. A stronger national economy must include a stronger personal retirement system built with the provinces. In fact, that is exactly what led to the development of the PRPP.
In December 2009, our government held a meeting with provincial and territorial finance ministers to discuss the retirement income system and, in going forward, how to address the issues of retirement income adequacy for all seniors.
In June 2010, federal, provincial and territorial governments agreed to develop options to improve Canada's retirement income system. One of those options was to expand the CPP. Many of the provinces raised strong objections to the idea of expanding the CPP as this would require increased contributions from employees, employers and the self-employed.
Canada's economic recovery is still fragile, and with the debt crisis in Europe still unresolved, now is simply not the time to impose a payroll tax on small and medium-sized businesses. As a former small business owner, I understand that point very well.
To be clear, it is not only our government that feels this way. According to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business:
|| For every one percentage point increase in CPP premiums beyond the current 9.9 per cent rate, it would cost 220,000 person-years of employment and force wages down roughly 2.5 per cent in the long run...
Simply put, an expanded CPP would hurt both small and medium-sized business owners and working Canadians. This government wants to create jobs, not destroy them.
Since expanding CPP was not feasible, priority was given to the PRPP framework. That is why at the 2010 meeting of finance ministers there was unanimous agreement on the decision to pursue a framework for pooled registered pension plans.
The PRPP will mark a significant step forward in advancing our retirement income agenda by improving the range of retirement savings options available to Canadians. They will make well-regulated, low-cost private sector pension plans accessible to millions of Canadians who, up to now, have not had access to such plans. In fact, many employees of small and medium-sized businesses and self-employed workers will now have access to a private pension plan for the first time.
For many years, I operated a private dental practice in Kitchener and employed up to five people. It would have been impossible for me to enrol in a pension plan on behalf of my employees. However, I would have liked nothing better than to access a pooled program in which, by putting our resources together with a number of employers, we could have accessed a pooled registered pension plan.
We can think of other businesses. My colleague mentioned a shoe store. I can think of small engine repair shops, farm implement dealers and hairdressers. We can go on with the number of small and medium-sized employers that would benefit from a measure like we have proposed. When they look for employees, they compete on the employment market and the ability to offer a good pension plan to an employee, in addition to an attractive salary and benefit plan, would go a long way in competing for the best and brightest people who could help to move their companies ahead.
This is an important part of gaining access to pension options and this access to pension options is a key improvement to Canada's retirement income system.
PRPPs will also complement and support the Government of Canada's overarching objective of creating and sustaining jobs, leveraging business investment, securing our economic recovery and encouraging sustainable private sector driven growth, an objective I wish members opposite would understand and support.
Quite simply, the PRPP framework is the most effective and targeted way to address the prime areas for improvement identified by provincial and federal governments in our recent review of the retirement income system, modest and middle-income individuals who do not have access to employer sponsored pension plans.
PRPPs would address this gap in the retirement system by providing a new, accessible, straightforward and administratively low-cost retirement option for employers to offer their employees. It would also allow individuals who currently may not participate in a pension plan, such as those self-employed and employees of companies that do not offer a pension plan, to make use of this new option. It would enable more people to benefit from the lower investment management costs that would result from membership in a large pooled pension plan, allowing for the portability of benefits that would facilitate an easy transfer between plans and ensure that funds would be invested in the bests interests of plan members.
These are all important areas where our retirement income system can and should be improved. That is why federal, provincial and territorial governments are working to implement PRPPs as soon as possible, and we are doing it collaboratively. Once again, I remind hon. members that this pooled retirement pension plan approach was agreed to as the best by all of Canada's finance ministers, provincial and territorial. These plans will help Canadians, including the self-employed, to meet their retirement objectives by providing access to a new, low-cost accessible pension option.
The bill before us today, the PRPP act, represents the federal portion of the PRPP framework and is a major step forward in implementing pooled registered pension plans.
In addition, the tax rules for pooled registered pension plans have been developed by the Government of Canada and were released in draft form for comment in December of 2011. Comments received during that consultation period, which ended in February, are being reviewed currently. The tax rules for PRPPs will apply to both federally and provincially regulated PRPPs and will be implemented in 2012. By working in concert with the provinces, we can accomplish so much more by working together.
I would urge all the provinces to take the advice of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association Inc. when they collectively said, “The longer governments take to establish a system of PRPPs, the less time those employees will have to use this vehicle to save for their retirement”.
It is clear that Canadians want their governments to act on their priorities and deliver results on a timely basis, and the PRPP should be no different.
Many people in my riding work for small and medium-sized businesses and who are self-employed. As a former small business owner myself, I know how greatly they would benefit from the advantages presented by pooled registered pension plans.
It is for this reason that I urge not only the Government of Ontario but all provincial governments, to put in place their respective legislation as soon as possible so that all Canadians can start saving for their retirement. Once provinces implement their own legislation, PRPPs will be a key element of the third pillar of Canada's retirement income system. PRPPs will complement and operate alongside registered retirement savings plans and employer sponsored registered pension plans.
With all the measures we have put in place and with Bill C-25 bringing the federal PRPP framework into force, Canadians can be confident about the long-term viability of their retirement system. We are listening, and will continue to listen, to the views on how we can strengthen the security of pension plan benefits and ensure that their framework is balanced and appropriate for the long term.
Canada's retirement income system is recognized around the world by such experts as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the OECD, as a model that succeeds in reducing poverty among Canadian seniors and in providing high levels of replacement income to retired workers.
With Bill C-25, we are making it better by working toward a permanent, long-term solution to encourage greater pension coverage among Canadians. At the same time, we will continue to ensure our retirement income remains one of the strongest in the world.
I would encourage all members of the House to support this important bill.
Mr. Claude Gravelle (Nickel Belt, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise today and speak on Bill C-25, an act relating to pooled registered pension plans. In truth, it is legislation from the Conservative government that is really a savings scheme, not a pension plan. Like the omnibus Trojan Horse budget bill, it reminds Canadians of the mess the Conservatives have created for Canada and for our pensioners.
This hole that Canadians find themselves in becomes unacceptable, especially when we see the shovels in the hands of the Conservative government digging the hole.
Let us separate fact from fiction in the government's spin on being good managers of the economy. In fact, the Conservatives' us-them, winners and losers ideology has exposed them as very bad managers of the economy.
Fact number one is that 1.6 million seniors live in poverty.
Fact number two is that 12 million Canadians lack a workplace pension plan.
Fact number three is that most Canadian workers have no RRSPs, but the proposed legislation advises that they invest despite disastrous investment returns.
Fact number four is that last year, only 31% of eligible Canadians contributed to RRSPs. How little money Canadians really have for their RRSPs is evident in the fact that unused RRSP room now exceeds $500 billion.
Fact number five is that the Conservatives tolerate overall poverty numbers of around 10%, one in every ten Canadians. They write off three million Canadians from contributing to productivity or paying taxes. The Ontario food bank estimates that the bill to Canada that the Conservative government writes off is costing our country close to $90 billion.
Facing all these facts, what do the Conservatives do? They bring forward legislation with limited benefits for the self-employed and for those with small and medium-sized businesses. They stick with our country's miserly pension plan rather than bringing it up to the level of other countries that more fairly and generously look after their seniors.
The proposed legislation would do nothing to fix our pension crisis. There is too little money on the revenue side for our country precisely because of the spending and the deep hole that the Conservative government has dug with its ideology-driven priorities.
There is no money for Canadian seniors and their pensions because the Conservative government ignores a declining crime rate and goes on a multi-billion dollar spending spree on crime that the provinces say they do not want and cannot afford.
There is no money for seniors, but there is money for F-35 fighter jets. There is money for a minister's $16 glass of orange juice and money to spend on search and rescue personnel to ferry the Minister of National Defence on his own errands.
The Prime Minister has said that the Canada pension plan is adequately self-financing, but “for those elements of the system that are not funded, we will make the changes necessary to ensure sustainability.”
What changes does the government propose? It plans to cut old age security, denying it to seniors who are 65 and 66. This program provides $526.85 a month to seniors below the income cut-off.
New Democrats recognize the demographics in our country showing that the number of Canadians older than 65 will double in the next 20 years. We also recognize that the pension plan is financially sustainable in its various demands, up and down, over the next 20 years.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer has backed us up with strong evidence, but what is increasingly having Canadians lose confidence in the government is its failure to manage the economy and deal with the inequality that exists in our communities.
There is less money for seniors because of ridiculous spending decisions by the Conservative government. It reduced corporate taxes and had ministers for the G8 spending like drunken sailors.
We on this side of the House have no problem with an honest dialogue with Canadians about belt-tightening, about hard choices that have to be made regarding our pensions and pensioners. However, we will not frame these choices as the Prime Minister does, ignoring the facts and making our seniors pay.
Let us be clear: our seniors and future pensioners need protection and real help. Pool registered pension plans fail to protect retirement security because they encourage families to gamble even more of their retirement savings on failing stock markets. Anyone who has watched the RRSP plummet over the past years knows how risky savings tied to the stock market are.
How out of touch can the Conservative government be to sell such a scheme to Canadians?
The bill is designed to appeal to the self-employed and workers at small and medium-sized firms, companies that often lack the means by which to administer a private sector plan.
The plan created would be a defined contribution plan. Employees would contribute a portion of their salary into the retirement account, where it could be invested in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, et cetera. Some companies would make a matching contribution, up to a certain percentage. The account would grow through contributions and investment earnings until retirement.
In such a direct contribution plan, there are no guarantees about how much of a person's money will be left when he or she retires. The risks are borne entirely by the individual. In these types of plans, the amount of money available at retirement depends upon the outcome of the investments, which cannot be relied upon. Defined contribution plans lack the security of defined benefit pension plans like the CPP and the QPP, which pay a guaranteed set amount upon retirement.
There is also the profit margin taken from these plans by the regulated financial institution, such as banks, insurance companies and trust funds. Bill C-25 also fails to place a cap on administration fees or costs and merely assumes lower costs will emerge through competition in the marketplace, and unlike the CPP and the QPP, the pooled pension plan would not be indexed to inflation.
On the other hand, the NDP has put forward a series of retirement income security proposals that would bring genuine security to our pensioners.
We want to double the guaranteed CPP-QPP benefits, to a maximum of $1,920 each month. Growing the CPP and QPP is the best and lowest-cost pension reform option we have.
We have committed to work with the provinces to build the flexibility of individuals and their employers to make voluntary contributions to individual public pension accounts. We would amend federal bankruptcy legislation to move pensioners and long-term disability recipients to the front of the line of creditors when their employers enter court protection or declare bankruptcy.
New Democrats would increase the annual guaranteed income supplement to a sufficient level, in the first budget, to lift every senior in Canada out of poverty immediately.
These are real reforms. This is the real help for seniors barely getting by or workers forced to delay a hard-earned retirement.
Let me quote the commentary of the Canadian Labour Congress on this bad bill.
|| The proposed PRPPs [pooled registered pension plans] do not guarantee low management fees that would prevent large management fees from eating up such a large portion of your savings. In fact, there is only a promise that the design of PRPP will result in large pools of capital that might lower fees, with no guaranteed or legislated results. Nothing in the PRPP proposal sets management expenses at levels equal to or lower than those of the CPP. As a result, CPP is still a better deal than PRPP; not only because of its guaranteed indexed retirement income, but because of its much lower management fees.
The government is already engaged in damage control on trying to increase the retirement age from 65 to 67. It is trying to reassure seniors that it would not affect those now retired or soon to be retired. What the government should be afraid of is the large number of Canadians aged 50 to 65, the people who vote in this country, who are seeing freedom 55, and now freedom 65, slip away.
Our seniors have worked hard and managed their budgets, only to see the government dig this very deep hole by giving up revenue it would have had from corporations and spending it on its priorities that are now not the priorities of many Canadians.
This will be the fight of their lives. New Democrats will join this fight. We need to value our seniors, not beat up on them.
Ms. Kerry-Lynne D. Findlay (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to add my voice in support of today's debate on retirement income security.
Before I commence my remarks, I will correct something that I believe the member opposite just said, which is that old age security is only available to the poorest seniors. OAS is universally accessible to our seniors. If he is getting mixed up between OAS and GIS, the guaranteed income supplement, it is true that our poorest seniors can apply for that supplemental income through GIS. However, OAS is universally acceptable.
As all members are well aware, seniors have led the way in making Canada the dynamic and successful nation that it is today. Through their sacrifices, succeeding generations have had the opportunity to prosper. There is at times the perception that our senior population may be forgotten in the rush of modern life but the reality is that when it comes to our government, nothing could be further from the truth.
Since 2006, we have taken important steps to improve government support for seniors. I know I have participated in round tables on seniors issues in my riding and met with numerous seniors groups to hear their concerns first-hand, as I am sure so many of my colleagues have as well.
We believe today's legislation would build on our success by improving the range of retirement savings options available to Canadians. The pooled registered pension plan, or PRPP, would make well-regulated, low cost, private sector pension plans accessible to millions of Canadians who have, up until now, not had access to such plans. In fact, many employees of small and medium-sized businesses and self-employed workers would now have access to a private pension plan for the very first time. This would be a key improvement to Canada's retirement income system.
PRPPs would also complement and support the Government of Canada's overarching objective of creating and sustaining jobs, leveraging business investments, securing our economy recovery and encouraging sustainable, private sector driven growth.
Some of the retirement income system proposals we heard in our consultations would have significantly raised costs for employers and employees. They would have been unacceptable in the midst of a very tentative economic recovery.
Promoting the retirement income security of Canadians is an important goal of the Government of Canada. We will continue to ensure that our policies, programs and services meet the evolving needs of Canada's senior population.
I am the fifth of six children in my family. Quite typically for modern Canadians, my father lived to the age of 89 and my mother to the age of 93. My father was a self-employed electrician and electrical contractor. Except for four years in her later life, my mother stayed at home to raise six children.
At the beginning of my father's working life, Canada did not even have a Canada pension plan. Our country has come a long way in the intervening decades. However, innovation is required and should be welcome.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce commented in November 2011 that this legislation had the potential to benefit the estimated 60% of Canadians who have either no or insufficient retirement savings. This legislation ushers in excellent opportunities for employers and employees to work together and the self-employed to benefit in a way that can create a more secure future in one's senior years. This would have helped lifelong contributors to the Canadian economy, like my father and his family.
Through these legislative and policy efforts, we recognize the contributions seniors have made and continue to make to our nation. They deserve pension security and we are ensuring that the retirement income system and the tax system support those goals.
We are doing so in a number of ways. For example, the CPP provides a secure indexed lifelong retirement benefit. To ensure that the CPP remains on solid footing, it is regularly reviewed by federal, provincial and territorial governments that have successfully acted as joint stewards of the plan since its inception.
As a result, the chief actuary indicated in his most recent report on the CPP that the plan was sustainable, at least for the next 75 years, at current contribution rates and benefits.
Canada's retirement system includes tax assisted private savings opportunities to help and encourage Canadians to accumulate additional savings for retirement. This includes registered pension plans, RPPs, and registered retirement savings plans, RRSPs.
RPPs are sponsored by employers on a voluntary basis and can be either defined contribution or defined benefit with employers and often employees responsible for making contributions.
RRSPs are voluntary individual defined contribution savings plans. Employers may provide 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. Pension payments and withdrawals are included in income and taxed at regular rates.
In all, the cost of tax assistance provided on retirement savings is currently estimated at approximately $25 billion per year in forgone revenue for the federal government and about one-half that amount in forgone provincial revenue.
However, that is not the only way the government helps Canadians ensure that they have more money available when they retire. I will quickly elaborate on some other measures our government has introduced to assist seniors and pensioners which, together, are providing roughly $2.5 billion in additional annual targeted tax relief to seniors and pensioners.
Since 2006, our government has increased the age credit amount by $1,000 on two occasions, doubled the maximum amount of income eligible for the pension income credit to $2,000, introduced pension income splitting, and increased the age limit for maturing pensions and RRSPs to 71 from 69 years of age.
In 2012, a single senior can earn $19,542 and a senior couple $39,084 before paying federal income tax. Due to measures taken since 2006, about 380,000 seniors will be removed from the tax rolls in 2012.
In addition, in budget 2008, our government introduced the tax free savings account, TFSAs. The TFSA is a general purpose savings vehicle that helps all adult Canadians, including seniors, to meet their ongoing savings needs on a tax preferred basis, including those who are over age 71 and are required to begin drawing down their registered retirement savings.
Of note, the income earned within a TFSA and withdrawals from the account are not subject to income tax and do not affect eligibility for federal income tested benefits or credits, such as old age security, the guaranteed income supplement or the goods and services tax credit. This feature improves savings incentives for low and modest income Canadians who would expect to receive GIS benefits in retirement. In its first five years, it is estimated that over three-quarters of the benefits of saving in a TFSA will go to individuals in the two lowest tax brackets.
Last year, we introduced measures strengthening the GIS, which is a benefit for low income seniors. Budget 2011 included a new GIS top-up benefit targeted to the most vulnerable seniors.
On top of all these efforts, our government provided an additional $10 million over two years to enhance the new horizons for seniors program, funding that will enable more seniors to participate in social activities, pursue an active life and contribute to their community. The program provided funding for projects that will increase awareness of elder abuse and promote volunteering, mentoring and improved social participation of seniors. We are continuing to help seniors.
I have been approached by constituents on this legislation who had two primary concerns: whether the PRPP was portable and whether a worker who does not opt into such a plan initially can opt in later. The answer to the first concern is, yes, the plan is portable. We urge all provincial governments to move quickly with their mirroring legislation. The answer to the second concern is yes. A worker who does not opt in initially can opt in later.
In fact, Dan Kelly, vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said, in November 2011 in media interviews, that the pooled plans are desperately needed because presently only about 15% of small and medium-sized businesses his company represents offer some form of retirement savings plan for their employees. He further stated, “This can't come soon enough from our perspective”.
In conclusion, I will reassure seniors that in carrying out our plan to restore budget balance, this government will not raise taxes. There are employers and employees across the country in all sectors who are anxiously looking forward to seeing this fundamental change in Canada's pension landscape becoming available. I would, therefore, encourage all members of this House to support this very important legislation.
Mr. Alain Giguère (Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I would like to really discuss the issues raised by Bill C-25. This bill should have been an opportunity to improve pension plans in Canada, something that would have made Canadians wealthier. Unfortunately, with this system, the only ones who will benefit will be the corporate welfare bums.
It is important to understand how this system is funded. Employees do not get to decide who administers their retirement savings; the employer decides. Employees are not the ones who decide the level of investment risk they will assume or where their money will go. Once again, it is the employer who decides.
Ironically, the employer that decides the level of risk and chooses the administrator is in a conflict of interest with regard to that administrator. What happens when the employer does business with the same financial institutions with which it negotiates its line of credit, its insurance and all the other financial products a business might need? It is a blatant conflict of interest.
On top of that, in this bill the government is saying that employers, the business owners, are not responsible for their actions under the law. If they choose the worst administrator or the highest level of risk, this legislation exonerates them. Legal exoneration is included in Bill C-25. This is unbelievable. People are either strongly for or strongly against these corporate welfare bums. The Conservatives strongly support them, and Bill C-25 is proof of that.
The government has decided that no matter what the returns on the investments—be they negative or positive—the financial institution will be the first to benefit. Imagine that. The institution will charge administrative fees regardless of the returns. Then it will collect its profit margin because it is a private company. Then, depending on the level of risk, it will collect bonuses. Inflation is also a factor. If the return is 3% and inflation is 2%, then the net return is 1%. Unfortunately, people will not even get that 1% because they are the very last in line after administrative fees, bonuses and rates of return. Basically, this means that no matter what the situation, the administrators will be the ones making money. Whether the market is up or down, they will make money.
Paradoxically, if the deductions are too high, the people investing in the pooled registered pension plans proposed in Bill C-25 will experience consistently negative returns. A person who invests $600 a year for 30 years can expect to withdraw at least $18,000, right? Not so. With this wonderful plan, he might have much less than that. He is not even guaranteed to get back the money he put in. This is not a pension plan or even a lottery. It is outright theft.
The Conservatives have decided to put the financial future of retirees in the hands of people whose primary interest is to earn the maximum amount of money, not to generate a return or guarantee a pension, but to earn money now, right away.
The icing on the cake is that the Conservatives say in the bill that administrators are prohibited from using gifts to encourage employers to allow them to manage the pension fund. However, this type of deal is allowed according to the regulations. Not only is there already a clear conflict of interest, but this also legalizes bribes. Unbelievable. Then they claim that it is for the good of the employees.
We have proposed that, at least, the right to charge administrative fees should be dependent on the return.
If pension funds are properly managed, the administrator has the right to charge a fee, but if it they are poorly managed, the administrator should not be paid. The administrators must take on part of the risk, which would motivate them a bit to always aim for big returns, but no, they do not take on any risk. The only risk is taken on by the employees, who do not even have the right to choose their administrator and level of risk. That is outright abuse. This is where Bill C-25 systematically goes after workers.
This is not a pension plan, but an extremely toxic financial product just like the junk bonds we saw in the 1970s and 1980s, and the commercial papers we saw in 2008. That is how toxic this is. People absolutely must not invest in this. I would like to take this opportunity to tell people that the last thing they should do is choose to participate in such a plan. They should buy a house. We hear a lot about pension plans, but at the same time, we have never seen such a high number of Canadians who own their homes.
Quite often, Canadians' main investment is their home, and that is smart. However, the Conservatives are not taking that into account. They are saying that 60% of people do not have a pension plan. That is not true. Canadians are investing in their pension by investing in their homes. A house is a capital asset that appreciates in value rather than depreciating like the plan the government is proposing.
What can we say about a regime, a political party, a government that systematically stands up for the rich? The government is ignoring the needs of all Canadians to help only 1% of the population, the wealthiest members of our society. Since the Conservatives have come to office, the gap between the rich and the poor has been widening. The poor have become poorer, as has a large part of Canada's middle class—in short, the vast majority of Canadians. Meanwhile, the Conservatives' friends, the corporate welfare bums, have grown even richer. And that does not bother the Conservatives at all. Clearly, they are even in favour of it.
This type of government regime, which robs the vast majority of people to favour its friends, is called a kleptocracy. That is exactly what we are dealing with here: people who work only for the wealthiest members of our society in the hopes that perhaps, one day, these extremely rich people will invest their wealth and use it to buy goods, which will drive the economy. However, what we have been seeing for the past 10 years is that these people are not investing in Canada. They are taking the money that they get in Canada and investing it abroad, in financial products and corporate acquisitions. That is not creating any jobs at all. It is even causing us to lose jobs.
The Conservatives could have taken action to prevent situations like the ones that occurred at Nortel and AbitibiBowater from happening again, but they did not. Their friends, the corporate welfare bums, did not want them to. They did not want regulations to be imposed, and regulations are still not present in Bill C-25. The Conservatives are not regulating this bill.
They say that the market will determine how to proceed, but right now, the market is not favourable to workers in this country. It only works for the people opposite in this kleptocracy, people who only work for the rich. They have once again decided to systematically favour the rich. This pooled registered pension plan is a highly toxic financial product. I urge all Canadians not to invest a single penny in it, because it is a guaranteed loss. The only people who are going to make money from those plans are the ones administering them.
Mr. Ted Opitz (Etobicoke Centre, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I am glad to rise once again in this House and speak again on Bill C-25, pooled registered pension plans act.
This proposed piece of legislation is of vital importance to my constituents in Etobicoke Centre. I have hundreds of businesses, especially small and medium-sized businesses, in Etobicoke Centre. I really do appreciate the opportunity to elaborate on the bill's many merits here today.
As a member of Parliament, I am immensely proud to be part of a party that has the best record in providing retirement security options and for introducing legislation that would encourage the entrepreneurship of the ma-and-pa shops, which are the drivers of our economy and form an essential part of my riding of Etobicoke Centre, as I am sure they do in the rest of the country and in many ridings across the country.
Since 2006, our Conservative government has established a strong record when it comes to aid for small businesses. We have reduced the small business tax rate, provided $20 million to support the Canadian Youth Business Foundation and extended the accelerated capital cost allowance to help businesses make new investments in manufacturing and processing machinery and equipment.
Our government's square focus on incentivizing business has resulted in real growth. Canadians can rest a little easier knowing that our country has the enviable position of creating jobs in a fragile global economy, more than 760,000 so far.
Canadians have come to expect good economic stewardship from this side of the House, and we will continue to deliver that good economic stewardship. As part of this commitment to action, our government introduced the pooled registered pension plans, which would provide for a new accessible, large-scale and low-cost pension option to employers, employees and the self-employed.
In my last speech, I spoke about wide-ranging support for this pension option. I drew particular attention to the fact that all our provincial partners are on board and that stakeholders like the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business have urged the government to make PRPPs a reality as soon as possible.
As my colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice, said earlier, Ingrid Laederach Steven, owner of the Swiss chocolate shop in Toronto, is very welcoming and glad of this because there are so many different things for retailers, restaurants, farmers and so on. She wishes it could have been done 25 years ago.
The support is warranted, given the attractive features of the PRPPs, including their portability, whereby many employees will be able to transfer funds between administrators when they change jobs, and their auto-enrolment feature, which would reduce administration costs and increase participation rates in the program.
PRPPs would also have the added bonus of having a very low cost, given their scale, design and lower investment management costs compared to the average mutual fund. This makes it affordable and reachable for the people who work in small and medium-sized businesses.
PRPPs would improve the range of retirement savings to Canadians and provide an accessible option to the 60% of Canadians who do not currently have access to workplace pension plans. In the end, PRPPs are an essential tool, given the aging demographics we face in the future and our need to provide more retirement income options for our constituents.
Instead of acknowledging the many benefits of this plan, as other stakeholders have done, and get working on Canada's economic recovery, as this government does each and every day, members across the way are doing what they do best, trying to delay our economic progress and throwing false accusations our way.
For example, they allege that the pooled registered pension plans would come at the cost of further progress on reforming the Canada pension plan. To that I reiterate yet again what my colleagues have said before me: pooled registered pension plans are meant to complement the services our government has already provided for Canadians' retirement security and not replace them.
Pooled registered pension plans would work in conjunction with new initiatives that our government introduced, including pension income splitting, tax free savings accounts, as well as traditional retirement income vehicles like the CPP.
Furthermore, changes to the Canada pension plan, as the opposition knows full well, require the consensus of two-thirds of the population. We have already seen at the 2010 finance ministers meetings that a number of provinces hold strong objections to expanding the CPP benefit. They are unanimous, however, in pursuing a framework for pooled registered pension plans.
The opposition also glazes over the fact that its suggestion to increase contribution rates for CPP would mean higher payroll costs for small and medium-sized businesses and higher premiums for workers and the self-employed. Since CPP is mandatory rather than voluntary like the pooled registered pension plan, an expansion of CPP would mean that Canadians would face another obligatory reduction from their paycheque and Canadian entrepreneurs would face another barrier in making their business profitable, which is something we cannot abide.
Dan Kelly, the senior vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, which represents 108,000 businesses across Canada, said a CPP enrichment would be a payroll tax and is “very worrisome” for businesses.
He went on to state that:
|| For every one percentage point in CPP premiums beyond the current 9.9 per cent rate, it would cost 220,000 person-years of employment and force wages down roughly 2.5 per cent in the long run.
That is clearly unacceptable.
Our government, unlike the opposition, does not believe in jeopardizing Canadians' economic welfare by imposing higher barriers for job creation. The opposition also objects to the pooled registered pension plans as a private sector solution and takes particular offence at the fact that these plans would invest in the stock market.
However, as one of my hon. colleagues pointed out earlier in the debate, the entire pension system, both public and private, relies upon the stock market. My colleague drew on the example of Canada pension plan, 49.6% of which is invested in equities or stocks.
Last, the opposition has hijacked this debate to make repeated accusations, criticizing our Conservative government's strong record on seniors' issues. I take exception to those allegations, given that my riding has a large and thriving seniors population and I am consistently working hard to ensure that their voices are being heard in this House.
Contrary to what the opposition alleges, our government has created an enviable retirement security system in Canada and has prioritized seniors' issues. After all, it was our government that introduced pension income splitting, doubled the maximum amount of income eligible for the pension income credit and increased the age credit amount. As a result of actions like these taken to date by this Conservative government, seniors and pensioners will receive $2.5 billion in targeted tax relief for the upcoming fiscal year.
A joint federal-provincial research working group, in May 2009, found that Canada's retirement income system was providing Canadians with an adequate standard of living upon retirement. It found, for example, that the disposable income for Canadians age 65 years or over was about 90% of the average disposable income of all Canadians and was the third highest of selected OECD countries.
This report, however, found that despite the many measures already instituted by our government, some Canadian households, especially modest and middle-income households, are at risk of under-saving for retirement, and that is of great concern. It is precisely because of this that pooled registered plans are so needed and this bill is so important.
I am convinced that pooled registered plans are the way forward, as they would offer an enormous potential to improve the retirement security of all Canadians and, particularly, the 60% of those Canadians who do not have the luxury of a workplace pension.
This program has already drawn the interest of small-business employers, stakeholders and all our provincial partners.
In these fragile economic times, a sound, innovative policy like that behind the pooled registered pension plans is essential for Canadian competitiveness and for the welfare of our citizens.
I urge all members in this House to support the bill.
Mr. Mike Wallace (Burlington, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise as the last speaker on third reading of this bill. I know you will regret interrupting me because my speech will be so good.
I have spoken to Bill C-38, the pooled registered pension plans act, before. Therefore, I will try to summarize what I think are the four important points and then I will to respond to some of the things I have heard over the last number of readings. I spoke to the bill at second reading and report stage. It is a very important bill and it is the right opportunity available to the government at present.
Previous speakers have said over and over again that there are other options, which other parties have been promoting, including changes to the CPP. However, that requires two-thirds of the provinces with two-thirds of the population to make the changes, and that is not available to us at this moment. The provinces are onside with an opportunity to bring forward legislation of their own to match the pooled registered pension plans act. We can pass something in the House that will affect federally-regulated industries. What is important for me and the residents of my riding is that it is available to all industries.
I believe the Liberal Party is in support of the bill, which we will see when we vote shortly, and we appreciate its support. It has, throughout the discussion, pointed out some areas where it feels there are other opportunities. We do not disagree with that. There are other opportunities.
What I do not understand is the position of the NDP members on the bill. They have an option that they would like to see happen. We have been very clear that the option is not available to the government at this time, but that should not stop members of the official opposition from supporting this tool. It makes no sense to me that they made the claim during an election time that they would come to Ottawa to make things work, to work with other groups that hoped to form government, I guess. Going from third place to becoming government would have been very difficult, but they did very well and they need to be congratulated for that.
The idea those members were selling at election time was they were coming here to work for average Canadians, who they met at the kitchen tables, and they were going to make Parliament work. Here is a perfect opportunity. The bill does not solve all the problems with regard to retirement income that Canadians face now and in the future, but it is a tool, an option and an opportunity that is available and can be supported by all parties. That is making things work for Canadians and that is why they should be supporting it.
The member for Welland said that this was the same as an RRSP. It is not the same as an RRSP. Two things are different. First, employees have six months to opt out. It involves people in the program. It is portable and people can take it with them if they change jobs. That is an important difference from an RRSP, where people have to opt in.
The other comment was that the owners of businesses were saying they could not afford to do it. They cannot afford the RRSP program because they have to manage the process on their own and that is tough for small businesses that only have a few employees. Even for medium-sized businesses, it is a very costly endeavour. The pooled registered pension plan would average out the costs, spread the costs out and would offer ease of entry into the program for employers. It is a perfect tool for employers to keep and attract employees.
One of the issues, maybe not from my generation but from my daughter's generation, is that workers move from employer to employer every three, four or five years. This is an opportunity for employers to use the pension plan to attract and retain employees. It is an excellent program.
We have not voted on third reading stage yet, but I would encourage the NDP to do the right thing and support the bill.