Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the chance to speak to Bill , an act regarding the pooled registered pension plan. Certainly there will not be many more of us who have this opportunity.
As members may have already noted, the plan would fail to adequately address the current needs of Canada's aging population. Seniors represent one of the fastest-growing populations in Canada today. The number of seniors in Canada is projected to increase from 4.2 million in 2005 to 9.8 million by 2036. With so many seniors retiring in the years to come, we need to have the social safety net in place now to avoid dramatic increases in the rate of poverty in the future. We need real pension reform, not a savings scheme that is dependent upon the ups and downs of the stock market. Canadians know all too well how ineffective and expensive that kind of savings plan is. Too many saw their savings crumble away as the markets took a nosedive. This is most definitely not how savings for retirement should be organized.
The CPP, when it was established in 1966, was set up with the assumption that individuals would also have workplace pensions and individual savings to complete their CPP benefits. For the average Canadian, real wages have failed to increase, making savings for retirement a virtual impossibility. More and more, workplaces have cut pension programs, leaving only about 25% of workers with a private pension plan.
This savings scheme that we have seen proposed by the federal Conservatives purports to address the pension savings shortfall, but fails to address the problems at the heart of the retirement savings problem in Canada.
For employees, a PRPP is like a defined contribution, or group RRSP. It is a savings vehicle, limited by RRSP limits and regulations, purported to allow workers to save for retirement, but it would not guarantee retirement security. PRPPs would be managed by the financial industry, the same crew receiving huge corporate tax breaks from the Conservatives. The PRPP is not a defined benefit plan. It would not provide a secure retirement income with a set replacement rate of pre-retirement income. It would not be fully transferable. It would not be indexed to inflation and would not increase with the increasing cost of living.
It is noteworthy that employers, not employees, would decide contribution levels and it would not be mandatory for employers to contribute or match workers' contributions to these PRPPs. Without employers contributing, it would not really be a pension plan. In fact, employers who do not help their employees save for retirement could end up with a competitive advantage over employers who do. This would have a huge limitation on the effectiveness of PRPPs as a means to increase retirement security at all.
The proposed PRPPs do not guarantee low management fees, nor prevent the large management fees that eat up such a large portion of retirement savings now. In fact, there is only a promise that PRPPs will result in large pools of capital and that they might lower fees, with no guarantees or legislative results. Nothing in the PRPP proposals sets management expenses at levels equal to or lower than those of the Canada pension plan. As a result, CPP is still a better deal than PRPPs, not only because CPP is guaranteed and indexed but because it has much lower management fees.
The pooled registered pension plan would not help those who are struggling the most, the poor. The government's own advisory group, the National Seniors Council, in 2009 reported that, generally, most people did not experience dramatic declines in income when they turn 65, rather low income as for seniors is the result of the inability to accumulate assets over time. The council also argues that given their greater longevity, women are far more likely to be unattached in later life and at greater risk of experiencing low incomes. Indeed, women represented about three-quarters of the 179,000 unattached low-income seniors in 2006.
The National Seniors Council also points out that Canada's retirement income system, the OAS, CPP and private pension savings and investments, has helped reduced the incidence of low income among seniors and helped increase overall living standards. The OAS and GIS programs play a critical role in ensuring that seniors have a modest base of income. Still, a core group of seniors remain vulnerable: the unattached, recent immigrants, those with fewer than 10 years in the labour force and aboriginal seniors. The council points out that low income seniors spend most of their money on housing, food, transportation and health-related costs.
I have met with Canadian seniors and seniors organizations representing people from across the country. I have taken the time to listen to what they had to say and they are very concerned about access to health care, medicine, being forced from their homes and losing their autonomy. All of these things hinge on one simple thing, financial security. This current scheme, the one we have before us, does not provide security and without financial security, our seniors are left vulnerable to abuse and poverty.
Fixing our pension problem is not the only step we can take. We should provide education and financial literacy so Canadians can be better informed about planning for their retirement. To underscore that point is the 2005 report from the National Council on Aging. It found in a review of under-subscription to the OAS program and Canada pension plan that large numbers of eligible seniors had not applied for these programs. About 55,000 eligible people did not apply for their retirement pension. In 2004 alone, about 1,000 people made a late application for their CPP.
The council recommends that the federal government work to reduce the failure rate among people who are eligible for old age security and CPP benefits. It should also make public the number of eligible seniors who have not applied for the various benefit programs.
This is important because of the negative impact it has. Women are three times more likely to be late applying for CPP. Late applicants are also noticeably more numerous in Quebec, Yukon and the Northwest Territories, regions where there are more seniors living under the poverty line.
The fact is that late applications for CPP benefits causes serious consequences. Currently, a person who is late applying for his or her pension under the CPP is only entitled to 11 months of retroactive benefits, whereas the QPP provides up to 5 years of back benefits. The federal retroactive period for CPP is clearly insufficient and unfair because this program is based on employee-employer contributions. The money has been contributed and it should be available to the retiree.
The council therefore recommends that the federal government allow fully retroactive benefits, plus interest, when someone applies late under the Canada pension plan because it is a contribution-based program.
I will also say a few words about RRSPs, as they are much touted as a safe and valuable retirement savings plan. The National Council on Aging argues that people with low incomes actually derive no advantage from investing in RRSPs, an investment program that allows contributors to delay paying income tax until the invested amounts are cashed in. However, people with low income pay little or no income tax during their working lives anyway. If they are entitled to the GIS upon retirement, they will actually be penalized when they cash in their RRSPs, since these amounts will inevitably lead to a reduction in GIS benefits.
For example, a person receiving the GIS who cashes in a $1,000 RRSP could see his or her GIS benefit reduced by $527. Furthermore, those GIS recipients, who are among the 50% who pay income tax, will see a further reduction of $250. Finally, other benefits such as provincial-territorial income supplements or subsidized housing may be lost or reduced as well. The clawbacks discourage low income earners from making the already difficult effort to save.
Among people aged 55 to 64, 21% have no retirement assets and 32% have assets of less than $100,000. Seniors with no retirement income will receive maximum benefits from the government. However, those who have saved a little, about $23,000 in RRSPs, will have a significant portion of their assets confiscated by provincial and federal governments because both of these governments will recover the money through income tax and through reduced benefits paid out of their income tested programs.
This reality points to another, better way to assist low income seniors in gaining economic security. We must end the clawbacks. This would be a smarter investment and first step in eliminating poverty for seniors in Canada.
I would like to talk numbers now. The CCPA outlines the cost savings in investing in pensions. I think the House will find these numbers very interesting.
The federal government estimates that the net cost to the government of tax assistance to RRSPs, the third tier of retirement income, was $9.3 billion in 2005. This was projected to rise to $12.1 billion by 2010. The net cost of tax subsidies to registered pension plans in 2005 was $13.3 billion, projected to increase to $16.8 billion by 2010. Net cost is the cost in lost tax revenue by government for RRSP contributions. It is significant that the net cost in lost tax revenues of tax subsidies to registered pension plans and RRSPs in 2010, at $28.9 billion, is greater than the total cost of OAS benefits, estimated at $27.6 billion for 2009-10.
The CCPA, using data from Statistics Canada, points out that only 38% of employed Canadians have a workplace pension. It is also important to note that most Canadians who are entitled to contribute to an RRSP fail to do so. In many cases it would appear many of those eligible to contribute cannot afford to do that. Statistics Canada reports that 88% of tax filers were eligible to contribute to an RRSP in 2006, but only 31% actually made contributions. They used only 7% of the total contribution room available to them. In other words, there is now more than $500 billion in unused RRSP contribution room being carried forward.
Pension reform should reconsider the high cost of taxpayer subsidies to RRSPs and private pensions. A reduction of the tax subsidies to the third tier of the retirement income system would free up funds to improve benefits for CPP. A secure retirement for all Canadians would be ensured with $28.9 billion.
There are many among us who have concerns for the future and those concerns are entirely justified.
As I mentioned earlier, only 25% of Canadian workers have workplace pensions and nearly one-third have no retirement savings at all. More than 3.5 million Canadians are not saving enough in their RRSPs for what used to be called their golden years and 75% of workers are not even participating in a registered pension plan. Clearly the notion that retirement savings can be adequately accounted for through purchases of RRSPs does not work. Urgent government action is needed.
It should further be noted that private retirement savings are concentrated in a small percentage of Canadian families. According to Statistics Canada, 25% of Canadian families hold 84% of current retirement assets, while three out of ten families have no private pensions at all.
Seniors have worked hard all of their lives. They have played by the rules and now they simply want access to the programs and services that their hard-earned tax dollars helped to make possible. Every senior in Canada has the absolute right to income security.
In a series of polls conducts by the Canadian Labour Congress in 2004, 73% of Canadians polled said that they worried about not having enough income to live after retirement. The number of people who worried about income security had increased by almost 20% from two years before.
Canadians are worried about the solvency of their private pensions, the adequate nature of CPP and public income support and their ability to cope with what Statistics Canada confirms is a higher rate of inflation for seniors than average Canadians. We know life is getting more expensive. Those fears are well-founded. Right now, more than one-quarter of a million seniors live below the poverty line. Since the mid-1990s, the income of seniors has reached a ceiling and the gap between the income of seniors and that of other Canadians is now increasing.
According to the government's own National Advisory Council on Aging, between 1997 and 2003 the mean income of senior households increased by $4,100 while the average income of other Canadian households increased by $9,000. The situation is even more pronounced for seniors living alone. A life of poverty is most prevalent among women, those widowed, separated or divorced, recent immigrants, tenants, those without private pension coverage, and not surprisingly, those with low wages.
Senior women face harsh realities upon retirement. The poverty rate for senior women is almost double the poverty rate for senior men. In particular, unattached senior women remain very vulnerable. They make up 60% of seniors living below the poverty line. In 2003, according to a Government of Canada report, 154,000 unattached senior women lived in poverty. Poverty is a real issue for seniors. Income insecurity makes them vulnerable to abuse. Financial security equals autonomy.
New Democrats have concrete solutions to solving the pensions problem that faces Canadians. We would work with the provinces to bring about increases to the Canada and Quebec pension plan benefits with the eventual goal to double the benefits received. We would work with the provinces to build in the flexibility for employees and employers to make voluntary contributions to individual public pension accounts. We would amend federal bankruptcy legislation to move pensions and long-term disability recipients to the front of the line of creditors when their employers enter court protection or declare bankruptcy.
As government, we would increase the annual guaranteed income supplement to a sufficient level in our first budget to lift every senior in Canada out of poverty. Seniors are important to our party, so much so that our first opposition day in the House after the 2011 election was dedicated to asking the government to invest in seniors and raise the GIS sufficiently to eliminate seniors poverty in Canada. We did our homework and discovered that in combination with increases to the GIS set out in the June 2011 budget, the cost to taxpayers would be significantly less than $700 million. This is an intelligent, practical and affordable investment that would make a positive difference in the everyday lives of seniors currently living in poverty.
The argument that we as a country cannot afford to lift seniors out of poverty is preposterous. The most recent round of corporate tax cuts will cost the Government of Canada $13.5 billion over the next three years. A tiny fraction of this money would be enough to lift every senior in this country out of poverty. Canada is a rich and privileged country. Our wealth and prosperity are in no small measure the result of the lifetime of work done by Canadians who are or will be seniors. We absolutely must support these people because it is the ethical thing to do and, in practical terms, because they in turn support our economy and their communities and families. They contribute a great deal.
New Democrats are proposing an easy, affordable, targeted solution to a very real problem. As politicians, we have an obligation to make this happen. It is time that we abandoned partisan rhetoric and acted as one to stand up for seniors.
While I am very pleased that in June the NDP motion passed unanimously in the House and that all parties supported that initiative, the budget implementation bill and this Conservative pension scheme failed to take the NDP motion into account, despite its passing unanimously. The Conservatives seem to have conveniently forgotten their duty to the people they have pledged to serve. It seems that the government is only willing to pay lip service to democracy, as witnessed today, and to seniors struggling to make ends meet.
Canada does not need yet another voluntary, tax-assisted retirement savings program. It needs public pensions that provide all Canadians with a basic guarantee of adequate income that would protect their standard of living in retirement. Expanding the Canada pension plan would meet this objective. Improving the replacement rate of CPP retirement benefits would provide better retirement pensions to virtually all Canadians. A relatively modest increase in rates would achieve this.
The CPP covers all workers, including those who are self-employed. Its benefits would be guaranteed in relation to earnings and years of service. They would be indexed for inflation and fully portable from one job to another. This is the real solution, not the Conservatives' bogus pooled registered pension plan.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak today in support of Bill , the pooled registered pension plans act. I will be sharing my time this afternoon with the esteemed member for . Our government understands the importance of a secure and dignified retirement for people who have spent their lives building a better and more prosperous Canada.
I would like to begin by congratulating my colleague, the , for his hard work and his dedication to improving the retirement system in Canada. Over the past two years, he has travelled to communities across this land to consult directly with Canadians. He has met with business and labour groups to discuss key considerations with them. In addition, he has received valuable input from some of the most respected experts in the retirement income field. He has also engaged the opposition parties in constructive dialogue and given serious consideration to their ideas and suggestions. He has worked closely with his provincial and territorial counterparts to ensure their collaboration going forward.
I am happy to say that we have made real progress as a result of these efforts. Last November, our government introduced Bill , the pooled registered pension plans act. This legislation would implement the federal portion of the PRPP framework and change Canada's pension system to make saving for retirement easier for millions of Canadians. PRPPs would fill a gap in the current pension landscape where more than 60% of Canadians do not have a workplace pension plan. This includes small business owners and entrepreneurs and their employees, who often do not have access to company pension plans.
In my riding of Kitchener—Waterloo, this would have a tremendous impact. We are proud to be a centre of innovation where start-ups and small high-tech companies flourish. According to a recent report by Communitech, an organization that supports local technology companies in our area, 300 new companies were established last year in Waterloo region alone, creating 450 jobs. Over the past three years, 531 new companies employing over 1,400 people have been added to our local economy.
The importance of small businesses to Canada's prosperity cannot be overstated. They are the drivers of economic growth and job creation. They foster and reward creativity and innovation, ensuring that Canada will continue to lead in the knowledge economy of the 21st century. That is why our government has taken a number of steps to support small businesses in Canada and the introduction of the PRPPs is one more way that we can help address their needs.
PRPPs would offer a new low-cost pension option that would be especially important for the self-employed, and small businesses and their employees. For the first time, they would have access to a large-scale, low-cost pension plan with professional administrators working to ensure that funds are invested in the best interests of plan members. Since these plans would involve large pooled funds, plan members would benefit from the lower investment management costs associated with the scale of these funds. Essentially, they would be buying in bulk. These features would remove barriers that might have kept some employers in the past from offering pension plans to their employees, and prevented employees and self-employed individuals from participating in large-scale pension plans.
I am very pleased to see that this new initiative has been widely praised in the small business community. For example, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business released a statement last November supporting this legislation. Its senior vice-president, Dan Kelly, said:
A new voluntary, low-cost and administratively simple retirement savings mechanism will allow more employers, employees, and the self-employed to participate in a pension plan. CFIB is particularly pleased that firms will be given a choice as to whether to register for or contribute to a PRPP.
We believe that, if properly implemented by provinces, PRPPs have the potential to expand the retirement savings options for thousands of Canadian small businesses and their employees.
The support from small business leaders is also echoed in my riding. The president of the Greater Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber of Commerce, Ian McLean, believes that his members will benefit from the introduction of PRPPs. He said:
An increasing number of Canadians are employed by small and medium sized enterprises. If governments want to assist Canadians in saving more for retirement, our Chamber believes that the best option would be to make it easier for these businesses to offer workplace plans for their employees.
The pooled registered pension plans announced by Minister Menzies last November are an important measure for meeting this national public policy priority and we fully support their implementation. The plans will provide Canadians with a simple, efficient and cost-effective opportunity to save for retirement.
The introduction of the pooled registered pension plan option will also contribute to the ability of small businesses to attract and retain employees. In the Waterloo region, with our concentration of high-tech start-up companies, this will be especially valuable.
According to recent estimates, currently there are approximately 1,300 tech job vacancies in the region, and I have heard first-hand of the difficulties some companies are having in filling these positions. The ability to offer prospective employees access to a retirement savings plan will help small, innovative enterprises to compete with larger companies in attracting the top quality, specialized talent that will allow them to grow and thrive.
There are many solid reasons to support this legislation, which represents a vital improvement to Canada's retirement system and a significant step in advancing our pension agenda. PRPPs will complement and support the Government of Canada's overarching objective of creating jobs, leveraging business investment and securing our economic recovery through sustainable private sector-driven growth.
Bill is the result of careful consideration and consultation with provinces and territories, key stakeholders and experts and Canadians themselves. I would also like to point out that over the course of our deliberations we took a serious look at other retirement income system proposals put forward by the opposition and other interested parties. We were concerned because many of them would have entailed significantly raised costs for both employers and employees. Introducing them would have been unacceptable during a very tentative economic recovery.
Dan Kelly of the CFIB, whom I quoted earlier, warns against the proposal to hike CPP premiums, and cites data showing that even modest CPP increases would be detrimental to the economy, employment and wages. PRPPs, on the other hand, would be efficiently managed, privately administered pension arrangements that would provide greater choice to employers and individuals, thereby promoting pension coverage and retirement saving.
With the introduction of the PRPP act, our government has taken an important step to expand retirement options for Canadians and we have devoted considerable effort to the retirement security issue in order to get it right. I encourage all members to support this legislation.
In addition to our passing Bill , the provinces and territories will also need to introduce their own enabling legislation to ensure that this new initiative can be introduced and implemented in their jurisdictions. Working together, I am confident that we can get these new retirement vehicles up and running for Canadians as quickly as possible.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House and represent the constituency of Crowfoot in Alberta and speak to our Conservative government's efforts to help Canadians save for their retirement through the pooled registered pension plan. This is a modern effort to assist Canadians who are self-employed or who work for small firms or businesses. Our intent is to help Canadians who work where there is no company pension plan to have another avenue to invest into a company-style pension plan.
In my riding of Crowfoot, a large number of my constituents are not employed by large corporate firms or businesses or even small companies with a pension plan. I believe this is true in most rural areas of Canada.
In 2010, Canada's finance ministers agreed on a framework for a defined contribution pooled registered pension plan. When I talk about Canada's finance ministers I speak of the provinces and territories coming together with our federal finance minister and recognizing a need for this type of pension plan. It has already been noted that a number of ministers, such as the member for Macleod, and others travelled across the country and heard this from Canadians as well. Unity among the finance ministers is something that can be applauded, but certainly when they recognized the significant need for this type of pension plan. Our Conservative government's finance minister and those ministers from the provinces and territories agreed to work together to come up with a savings vehicle that would help them meet their retirement objectives.
Everyone agrees that this new option to save for retirement should be low-cost, efficiently managed, portable and accessible. We do not want to burden Canadians who are willing to set a little aside every paycheque to save for their retirement. We want the new pooled registered saving system to be well managed. It needs to be able to serve the many needs of Canadian workers using it and still must remain easy to access. We want Canadian workers to take their pooled pension plan from job to job to job.
Over the Christmas break I had the opportunity to be in Japan for eight days. During those eight days, we talked a lot about trade, beef and all those important things for our country to be able to access the Japanese markets. One of the things I learned when I was there was that the average citizen in Japan who begins with a company early out of university or college will stick with that company through his or her lifetime. As a result, there are those in Japan who have worked for the same company for 40 or 50 years. It is our experience here in Canada that many people go from job to job. They go from one opportunity to another opportunity. We want to be certain that this pension plan will allow those Canadians to take it with them and maintain that same plan as they go from one job to another. That is what we are trying to accomplish in the House today.
We are going to construct this system, get it up and running and help hard-working Canadians create a retirement fund for themselves. The pension plan will be called the pooled registered pension plan, or PRPP. PRPP members will pool their pensions through administrators to keep the cost of managing this new system down. By providing this low-cost retirement savings opportunity for employees, as well as the self-employed, PRPPs will play a key role in improving the range of retirement savings options available to Canadians.
I remind the House that this is especially important for the millions of small business owners and their employees who would have access to a private pension plan for the very first time.
Before I came into politics 11 years ago, I owned a farm and was a farmer but I also owned a small business. I guess that would be two small businesses. The farm was a business but I also owned an auction company. Although we had more contract workers than full-time employees throughout the entire year, I was never able to afford to offer such a pension plan to the workers. There were other businesses that had a number of employees and this incentive could never be offered to the employees. They continued to get their wages, maybe excellent ones and sometimes not quite so excellent, but one thing that was always a frustration for many of the workers was that they did not have a pension plan because their companies were too small to provide it. By providing this type of retirement savings opportunity, the PRPP would play a key role in improving the range of retirement savings options available to Canadians.
This could be one of the best things that the federal government could for the farmers and agricultural workers in my riding, and not just the farmers themselves. With this type of plan, many small companies in my riding, such as grain, fertilizer, hardware, the bumper-to-bumper types of businesses, could have a formal pension system. They do not even have a way to save for their retirements now through a company other than their own RRSPs. However, with the PRPPs they will and we will see that they will use this type of pension plan.
Husbands and wives, fathers, sons and grandparents pitch in on the farm and get to the job at hand. They try to get the crops and money in as quickly as they can. When they do this, they sometimes find that there are moneys left over at the end of the year so they may put it into a farm account as they know the farm may need it the next year. This plan would help them to identify something that has been missing for a lot of them, which is that there will be a need in their retirement years to supplement the CPP or whatever they have coming in at that point in time.
We have the option now of using RRSPs. I have heard the comment that we already have that option, as well as the TFSA that we brought forward. Now we have another option. This is not a stand-alone retirement plan. This is another option that we can be involved in and excited about.
There are numerous obstacles to seniors trying to retire in rural Canada. A pooled retirement pension plan would not only help but, in some cases, it would be the single thing that would allow a farmer to retire. Currently, farmers understand that their land is their retirement plan. They pay off their ranches or farms and know that when it comes time to retire they will be able to sell their land. These people may be in a vulnerable position depending on the real estate market when they try to sell. The PRPP is another tool that they could use to hold off on selling their land until market conditions improve. It would provide them with the opportunity to gear down without having to sell off their family farms.
One of the frustrations that all those in agriculture have is that we feel that we have missed a generation of young farmers starting out. I think this would afford many people the ability to dip into those savings without selling off their land and perhaps being able to use their land as an incentive for the next generation, their sons or daughters, to begin farming. This is worthy of debate today and I am excited about the new plans being proposed.
As a businessman, I wish this had been available many years ago. The sooner we can proceed with this the better. We recognize that, although we may be in a global downturn, Canadians can put themselves into a vulnerable position if they are not looking forward to their retirement years. This is just another one of those ways of helping Canadians to be prepared as they retire.
Mr. Speaker, I will share my time with the member for .
Today, we are talking about a bill that provides a legal framework for the establishment and administration of pooled registered pension plans that will be accessible to employees and self-employed persons and that will pool the funds in members’ accounts to achieve lower costs in relation to investment management and plan administration.
In short, we are talking about a new savings tool and not a plan that would secure retirement pensions. In fact, rather than addressing pension security, the government is proposing a new savings tool that will depend on the state of the stock market. This is another way the Conservatives have found to gamble with our retirement funds. The government recognized that there is a pensions crisis when it adopted the NDP opposition's motion. Members will no doubt recall that the motion outlined the need for a national pension insurance plan to protect workers' deferred wages or pension plans in the event of employer bankruptcy. At the same time, we initiated a discussion regarding the gradual increase of Canada pension plan contributions in order to increase benefits. Yet, although the government recognized that there is a problem, it is turning its back on seniors who are simply seeking to secure their futures.
Let us talk a little about what these pooled registered pension plans would do.
The measures proposed in Bill do not even guarantee a pension. This is more of a savings vehicle than a stable, reliable pension plan. While this savings plan would pool funds from participants to reduce the costs associated with managing the plan and investments, this bill does not cap the fees charged by the fund managers. Experiences in other countries show that these costs often chip away at pension savings to the point that the rate of growth in savings does not even match inflation. This bill is supposed to help self-employed workers and employees of small and medium-sized businesses, which often do not have the means to offer a private sector pension plan. A similar system was set up in Australia 12 years ago and has not yet proven worthwhile. Because of high fees and costs, returns on investment have not been much higher than inflation.
There is another big problem with pooled registered pension plans: they do not seem to offer anything new. They look just like a regular RRSP. This option would be just another defined contribution pension plan. Employees would deposit a portion of their salary in the retirement fund, and that money would be invested in stocks, bonds and mutual funds. Well-intentioned companies that care about their employees' well-being can match contributions, but they are not required to do so. However, considering the current climate in the business world, I think that companies will try to cut costs wherever they can.
Even more worrisome, this defined contribution plan in no way guarantees the amount of money that would be available upon retirement. The money employees set aside while working hard their entire lives would not be protected from the risks associated with fluctuating markets. As is the case with registered retirement savings plans, the individual or employee in question would completely and exclusively assume all market risks. Regulated financial institutions like banks, insurance companies and trust companies would manage the PRPPs for a fee. Canadians also need to consider the fact that PRPP benefits would not be indexed to inflation, unlike Canada pension plan benefits. The provinces and territories would determine whether the employers or employees of businesses of a certain size will be required to contribute to a PRPP.
Pooled registered pension plans, as they are defined in Bill , do not provide any retirement security because they encourage families to invest even more of their retirement savings in a declining stock market. When the stock market is rising, savings increase of course, but conversely, savings take a nosedive when the market declines.
Anyone whose RRSPs took a hit last year knows very well how risky it is to invest one's savings in any products linked to the stock market.
By encouraging families to invest in the same system that is already failing them, the Conservatives are showing just how out of touch they are with the reality facing Canadians and Quebeckers.
Over the pas three years, the NDP has suggested a number of proposals to ensure retirement income security. As we have indicated, the NDP first proposed increasing Canada pension plan benefits for a given period. Benefits would increase to $1,920 a month. Of all the possible solutions for pension reform, increasing Canada pension plan benefits is quite simply the most effective and affordable solution.
The NDP believes that retirement income security for seniors cannot be built on just one plan or one option. We believe that pensions need to be discussed in a more general way. We think that Canadians want us to examine all pensions as a whole. Our goal is not to reduce them, but rather to ensure their continued existence in order to protect our seniors for many years to come.
Our plans for retirement security were laid out in our election platform. The New Democrats were clear in last May's election campaign: we want a substantial increase in the guaranteed income supplement to help seniors who qualify for these benefits escape poverty. This measure targets 250,000 Canadians, most of them women.
As for the Conservatives, there was no indication in their election platform that, once elected, they would change the eligibility criteria for old age security and raise the eligibility age from 65 to 67. However, that has been the talk recently.
In recent weeks, in my riding of Montcalm, I have spoken to people who are worried about their future and their retirement. Someone wrote to me this week and told me that he had worked until he was 69 and was forced to get food aid at the age of 70. I find this unacceptable.
A couple from Saint-Roch-de-l'Achigan told me that the population is aging and no one deserves to lose their life savings, especially after working hard all their life.
Michel Janyk, from Mascouche, is also worried about Bill . He believes that we should guarantee and protect our retirement funds.
My constituents are not the only ones who are worried. Jason Heath, a certified financial planner at E.E.S. Financial Services Ltd., has said that pooled registered pension plans are, generally speaking, no different from RRSPs. Contributions are tax deductible and allow tax-deferred growth. Taxes are paid after retirement and the contributions are often invested in mutual funds. According to a 2006 report entitled “Mutual Funds Fees Around the World”, mutual fund fees are higher in Canada than anywhere else. It is not surprising that investment and insurance companies are applauding the arrival of pooled registered pension plans.
You can see how Bill to establish pooled registered pension plans does nothing to make the pensions of thousands of Canadians more secure.
The Conservatives' pooled registered pension plan does nothing to help the families who are being crushed under debt, and it is bound to fail since it is a voluntary plan—I repeat, “voluntary”—a defined contribution plan administered by wealthy financial institutions that sometimes invest in collapsing markets.
This uncertainty and volatility leave families with no guarantee that their savings will still be there when it comes time to retire.
At a time when the economy is so precarious, families do not need additional risks. They need the stability of the CPP or the Quebec pension plan. Economists and provincial leaders have been saying that for years, but this government, disconnected as it is from reality, is once again turning its back on families.
Mr. Speaker, I was delighted a few minutes ago when a colleague of mine across the aisle said that it is time for us to have a fulsome debate. Unfortunately, a motion that was passed this morning does exactly the opposite. We have limited time to discuss something that will have a fundamental impact on Canadians as they look forward to their retirement.
When I look at the title of the bill, the pooled registered pension plans act, I cannot see too many elements in it that look like a pension. It reminds me of the visa system that used to exist. We now have super visas. In many ways, this is more like a super RRSP. I would argue that once someone puts money into this pooled idea, that individual will lose the kind of control that he or she has over investments in a personal RRSP that can be managed through a banking institution.
The government is being reckless. There is nothing in the bill that requires an employer to make any guaranteed contributions. That would be optional. With many small businesses struggling, I cannot see employers making voluntary contributions to a pension plan for their employees. That is a major flaw in this legislation.
There is another major flaw in the bill. We seem to have turned a blind eye to what we have experienced over the last few years. We just need to look south of the border and hear the heart-rending stories of people who lost their pension plans totally as a result of the market going down. People who thought they were about to retire suddenly found themselves having to work longer. Even then, they will not make up the money they lost. Here in Canada, those of us who invested in mutual funds held in RRSPs also watched our savings disappear.
This pooled plan is only a defined contribution plan. Savings can disappear at the whim of the stock market. The situation in Europe and around the world is very volatile. If I had a limited income, would I choose to put my money into this plan? Would I gamble with my hard-earned money and put it into a pooled fund?
This is an open chequebook for banks. There is nothing in this legislation that says a cap will be set on management fees. This would really be a lose-lose situation for the person who puts money into this pooled fund. For those people who could afford to put money aside, they would be worse off putting money into this fund than if they put it into their own RRSPs.
I come from the riding of Newton--North Delta. I have had the privilege over the last month of meeting hundreds of my constituents. Most of them told me that they have to work two or three jobs to make ends meet. Many of them do not have a pension plan and they do not have money to put into RRSPs.
The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives released a study that says that over $500 billion in RRSP contributions was not utilized by Canadians. All of the people who could have had this great tax break did not make use of it. I would argue that some of them were scared because they saw what happened to the market and they saw their RRSPs shrinking. The vast majority of them do not have the wherewithal to put money into this pooled fund.
If the government wants to address the pension issue, this is a critical time for us to be taking a look at old age security. Senior after senior came to my office and I visited them in the seniors' centres. They told me the same story over and over again. They are having to go to food banks. They are hand stitching their torn clothes. They are telling me that the old age security pension is not enough. I actually had an 83-year-old who told me that she applied at Wendy's and three other locations to get a part-time job, but nobody would hire her.
Is this the life of dignity we talk about for our seniors? Is this the reward given to the people who built this country while we enjoy the fruits of their labour?
I have had the privilege of visiting a lot of high schools and elementary schools in my district. I was so touched by the concern of so many students for those living in poverty, especially seniors.
When I spoke at North Delta Secondary School, students asked me, “What do you do? Who comes to see you in your MP office?” I told them the story of three people who had been to see me that morning. I told them of a senior who came to see me who lives in a garage that he rents for $300 a month. He only cooks twice a week because that saves on energy costs. He has to time when he can have his heat on. He only has one outlet in that garage, so he can either have the computer or the lights on. He showed me the state of his clothing. He told me how embarrassing it was for him to have to go to the food bank. This is one of the veterans we purport to treat with such dignity and respect.
When I told that story to the grade 10, 11 and 12 assembly, the vast majority of those young people had tears in their eyes. Over and over again, they said that they did not realize that in Canada our seniors, who are like their grandparents, are having to live in such poverty.
If the Conservative government brought a bill forward that would lift our seniors out of poverty immediately, I and every NDP member would stand up and speak for it. Let us not come up with a bill that does nothing to address the poverty our seniors live in, that puts into jeopardy Canadians' hard-earned money as it lures them with a false pension scheme. That is what it is.
I will read from an editorial in the Calgary Herald, which is located in a very progressive city. It states:
The CPP already covers almost all Canadian workers and thus spreads the risk and management fees. It is fully portable, offers guaranteed income to all retirees, and is the only risk-free investment broadly available to workers. Private RRSPs and employer pension plans have proven much riskier than initially billed. Those who are in company pension plans are likely in a defined contribution scheme, where the amount that goes in is predetermined, but the payout is based on how well the fund is invested and ultimately performs. Nortel workers know only too well how that worked.
I plead with my colleagues across the aisle not to gamble with our citizens' hard-earned money in a scheme that is so volatile and has no protection. Let us not do that.
Mr. Speaker, it is certainly my pleasure to rise in the House today to speak to Bill . This legislation is the result of some three years of careful preparation and consultation on the part of our government in partnership with the provinces, territories and other stakeholders. As a result, we are now in a position to pass legislation that will help millions of Canadians, who do not have access to a pension plan, to prepare for their retirement.
I would like to begin by taking a moment to reflect on why the legislation is so important and what prompted its creation.
First, governments have known for a number of years that a demographic shift is taking place in Canada. In spite of immigration and the growth of certain sectors of the Canadian population such as among first nations, the overall demographic trend is toward the growing number of Canadians reaching retirement age. This is due not only to the retirement of the baby boomer generation, but also to the fact that more Canadian seniors are living longer.
The challenge this creates for us as the government and for Canada as a society is how we can contribute to a basic quality of life for our aging population in the face of increased strain on our retirement income system. This challenge is made all the more poignant by the immense contributions that our retirees have made to the growth and prosperity of our country. Our seniors deserve dignified retirement. That is why in recent years our government has taken action through a range of measures to support elements of our retirement income system that have a proven record of success.
For example, we built on the framework for federally regulated registered pension plans and took steps to ensure that employers fully funded benefits if the pension plan was terminated. Working with the provinces, we also modernized the CPP making it more flexible for those transitioning out of the workforce.
In budget 2011 we introduced a new guaranteed supplement top-up benefit for Canada's most vulnerable seniors. I would like to note that the opposition voted against that important increase in GIS for seniors. As a result, more than 680,000 low-income seniors now receive additional benefits of up to $600 for a single and $680 for a couple. In addition, we have provided some $2.3 billion in additional annual targeted tax relief to seniors and pensioners through measures such as pension income splitting, increases in the age credit amount and the doubling of the maximum amount of income eligible for the pension income credit.
Although all of these measures are intended to provide greater flexibility and security to our retirement income system, additional measures are required to safeguard Canadians as they reach retirement age. That is why in May 2009, as the world reacted to the global financial crisis, the federal-provincial-territorial finance ministers met and agreed to form the working group on retirement income adequacy.
After months of consultation, the working group concluded that while our Canadian retirement system was on the whole performing well, some Canadian households were at risk of not saving enough for retirement. A gap identified by the working group was the large number of Canadians, 60% in fact, who had no access to a workplace pension plan.
In December 2010 the finance ministers from across the country agreed that a defined contribution pension plan could be made available to 60% of Canadians and they agreed to pursue a framework for pooled registered pension plans.
Members of the opposition have repeatedly stood in this place during the debate on the bill and have argued against the position of our finance ministers from across the country. They suggest that the key to retirement security is simply to expand Canada pension plan benefits. We know that changes to the CPP would require the agreement of at least two-thirds of the provinces with at least two-thirds of the population. The federal-provincial-territorial ministers of finance have discussed this very notion of a CPP expansion, but there has been no agreement.
Beyond that, if the CPP were to be expanded, Canadians could count on increases to their CPP contributions as a result. Surely a fragile economic recovery is not the right time to increase the amount Canadians have to pay on their CPP contributions.
That being said, moving forward on a PRPP does not preclude some future change to the CPP. The opposition needs to understand that this government is not closing the door on CPP. Rather we are opening the door to a new low-cost and accessible option that will help Canadians meet their retirement goals.
This is especially important for those working for small businesses and the self-employed. Currently, owners of small businesses who might want to create a pension plan for their employees but lack the resources and expertise to do so, or for those in companies that do not have pension plans or are self-employed and want to have access, they are not able to under our current system.
PRPPs would be administered by a financially regulated institution thereby decreasing the cost and complexity for small business owners in setting up such a plan. PRPPs would be accessible to those without an employer-employee relationship, allowing the self-employed to benefit from the advantages of PRPPs, including the lower costs that would result from the pooled funds.
Currently some Canadians may be failing to take advantage of the saving opportunities offered to them through individual structures like RRSPs. In fact, on average, each Canadian has over $18,000 in unused RSP room. Even among those who do make a concerted effort to maximized their retirement income through voluntary contribution structures, a PRPP could provide avid stability.
For example, I will touch on a story of one self-employed Canadian's retirement savings experience. This gentleman worked as a self-employed stone mason prior to retirement and his main form of retirement savings was through RRSPs. Particularly in the last years of his career, he increasingly worked toward maximizing his RRSP contributions and ensured that they were invested reasonably securely, but nevertheless provided some return on investment. Today he is able to live on the retirement income he was able to provide for himself, but only after a lot of hard work on his part to educate himself on RRSPs and investment. In his own words: “It takes years to develop a way of investing that is wise”.
While it is a stated goal of our government to improve financial literacy, we are also aware that many Canadians may not have the time, opportunity or the desire to study investing and not everyone has access to a broker or financial adviser. This is where PRPPs would provide a great benefit because the responsibility for implementing the pension plan would be taken on by the third-party administrator.
The administrator will be responsible for the management of the pension fund and the day-to-day administration of the pension plan. This will include ensuring that the money being contributed into the plan is being managed prudently, that appropriate investments and options are offered and that plan members are informed with up-to-date plan information. Additionally, because PRPP investments are pooled, it is expected that members will be able to benefit from greater economies of scale and lower costs compared to RRSPs.
Another major benefit of the PRPP is its universality and portability. In my own riding of Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo many people rely on seasonal work for employment, which is a fact of life for many rural Canadians across the country.
For example, let us say that a constituent of mine named John works at the ski resort of Sun Peaks during the winter, but during the summer must find work at a local ranch. Under our current system, John would be left to his own initiative to invest in RRSPs or contribute to his tax-free savings account. Now, thanks to the portability of the PRPP, John can contribute to the same pension plan, regardless of which employer he happens to be working for.
Providing a new, accessible, straightforward and administratively low-cost retirement saving option will allow more Canadians to benefit from secure retirement savings. I am therefore proud to support the government's move to implement PRPPs and hope, with the support of the provinces and territories, that we may speedily implement this important reform for our retirement system.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to debate Bill , which, as we know, is about setting up a pooled registered pension plan. This is an important issue today for the future economic security of retirees. Many members have talked about the 12 million Canadians who do not have a workplace pension plan. We have to deal with this issue.
However, the NDP—myself included—believes that the government's proposed solution is a very bad idea. It will distract us from good solutions, and we will end up with a program that does not meet its stated objectives. Let me explain why.
So far, many members have talked about how the economic crisis highlighted the weakness and vulnerability of private pension plans. I am well aware of this because, in my previous life, before becoming an MP, I dealt with very sensitive situations where pensions were at stake, such as the AbitibiBowater employees' pension. Now other companies, such as White Birch, are having problems. In those workplaces, pensions are typically defined benefit plans, not defined contribution plans. These are real pensions that provide economic security, but the present economic climate is undermining that security.
That is what is happening to the Canada pension plan, a defined benefit plan that provides people with economic security because they know how much they will get once they stop working. With defined contribution plans, people do not know how much they will get. That is up to market fluctuations, and it is one of the weaknesses of the government's proposal.
The government often says things to suggest that it accepts the argument that the public pension plans are solid and secure programs; these include the Canada pension plan, old age security and the guaranteed income supplement. It is essential to provide Canadians and Quebeckers with economic security, but the pooled registered pension plan proposed by the government does not do that.
Before getting into the major shortcomings of the proposed pooled pension plan, I would like to address one of the arguments that has been raised many times since the beginning of the debate: that we have no choice but to move in this direction because the provinces have refused—the necessary consent was not given by two-thirds of the provinces. That argument is a fallacy.
I followed the issue when I was in my previous position and I also followed the Kananaskis meeting where this was discussed. I would like my colleagues to refer to an article from the Globe and Mail that was written on the eve of the Kananaskis meeting. I will read it in English because the article is in English.
Provinces are planning to fight for enhancements to the Canada Pension Plan at a key meeting on Monday, setting up a showdown with the [federal] government over how Canadians will fund their retirements.
Just days before federal and provincial finance ministers meet in Kananaskis, Ottawa made a surprise move to reject CPP enhancements for now in favour of a new privately run savings vehicle.
Ontario's finance minister, who is quoted in this Globe and Mail article, said he did not think the provinces would oppose it. In the same article, the only province to oppose improving the Canada pension plan was Alberta. It was possible to get approval from nine provinces at that time. Since the government announced that the option of improving the Canada pension plan was not on the table, the provinces wanted to try to make the meeting worthwhile by proposing any option that might seem like progress. That is what is being proposed right now. To say that we have no choice but to take this direction because the provinces have said no is a fallacy. It is not true. It is baloney.
The Canada pension plan has several major flaws. Now we are talking about another voluntary plan. It will be introduced in a workplace and it will be optional. People will be able to opt out if they want. In other words, it will be a voluntary program. Tons of voluntary programs already exist, including group RRSPs and the more recent TFSAs. Both of these plans offer tax incentives to encourage Canadians to invest. Yet only 30% of Canadians invest in RRSPs, despite the significant financial incentives. It costs the federal government a fortune in tax expenditures. So why do only 30% of Canadians invest in RRSPs? Why do 70% of Canadians not invest? Because they do not have enough disposable income to do so.
I can also talk about TFSAs. Some 40% of Canadians invested in TFSAs last year. Half of that 40% earn $100,000 or more a year. For them, this program in another tax loophole. In the end, over 60% of Canadians are not investing in TFSAs, despite the advantages of the program, because they do not have the disposable income needed to invest. So, there is a good chance that low-income employees will not have enough incentive to participate in the proposed program because they need all of their income to meet their basic needs. Many of the employees who have the program available to them will opt out for that reason. The reason many voluntary programs do not work, despite tax incentives, is because people need to have enough money to invest.
We compared the management fees of the program proposed by the government to those of the Canada pension plan. Management fees associated with the CPP are less than 0.5%. Private plans, such as mutual funds, are also a form of pooled investment, since everyone has a share of the overall envelope in a mutual fund. The largest mutual funds do not benefit from any economy of scale. Management fees range from 2% to 2.5%. This may not seem like much but when a mutual fund generates a return of 3% to 3.5%, the 2% to 2.5% in management fees must be deducted from it. If the Canada pension plan delivers the same return as a mutual fund, only 0.5% must be deducted. Thus, the Canada pension plan already provides a return that is 2% greater than private plans like the one the Conservative government wants to implement.
As a side note, the Canada pension plan delivered a return of 15% in 2010 and 12% in 2011. On average, private plans in Canada delivered a return of 10.5% in 2010—from which 2% to 2.5% must be deducted—and 0.5% in 2011. We are talking about a total cumulative return of 27% over the past two years for the Canada pension plan and a return of only 11% for private plans. If there are any doubts about the effectiveness of the Canada pension plan as compared to private plans in the past two years, a time of economic uncertainty, this fact should dispel them.
With respect to economies of scale and management fees, Australia has a super fund very similar to what the government is proposing. About 10 years after setting up the super fund, Australians discovered that there were no economies of scale and that management fees were the same as for private funds, such as mutual funds.
I have already briefly addressed the third element, defined contributions.
Fourth, this distracts us from the real solution that the NDP has proposed: enhancing the Canada pension plan. Gradual premium increases would make it possible to double benefits, thereby ensuring a secure retirement for Canadians. That would be a true financial security program.
I do not have enough time to point out all the advantages of this solution. I hope that someone will ask me a question about that in the next five minutes. This is the right solution. This solution would also provide economic stability because beneficiaries would spend their bigger pension cheques. After all, they no longer need to save. The money would be reinvested in the economy to play a major role in battling economic uncertainty and fuelling the economy.
That makes our solution far better than the vague one the Conservatives have proposed.
Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to speak to Bill . I welcome everyone back in the new year and I welcome those who are watching at home. It is hard to believe that people do watch the debates at home but I have two grandmothers who actually watch so I want to say hello to my grandmothers and wish them a happy new year if they happen to be watching today.
I want to talk a bit about how we got here today and why Bill , the pooled registered pension plan, is important. I had the opportunity, as a Conservative member on the finance committee over the last five years in the previous Parliaments, to be part of finance and we did an extensive study on pensions. It took a number of months and, out of that study, came a number of issues, one of which was a pooled registered pension plan. Business, labour and individual business owners were coming to our committee and asking us to look at the possibility of being part of that group of those who were eligible for pensions. As has been previously mentioned, about 60% of people do not have access to pensions. They were looking for an opportunity to have access to a pension plan.
Out of that, we recognized the issue that pensions play, not just currently but in the future. The had the foresight to take the parliamentary secretary at the time and make him a with a focus on pensions. We are the only government in Canada's history that has a focused ministry on that particular item. We care about our seniors, our future seniors and where this country is going in terms of the demographic. We need to be on top of the pension plans and retirement issues that are facing this country, which is why the Prime Minister has dedicated a ministry to that effect. So that is how we got here today.
Who asked for it? Members have heard over and over again from my colleagues on this side of the House about the small business organizations that have come to see us to talk about why they need access to a pension plan. One reason is that it is good for their employees. There is no doubt that having access to a pension plan and having some planning in terms of eventual retirement are important. However, as the previously said, it is also important for retention and attraction of employees. It is very difficult for small and medium size businesses to compete with large businesses that have pension plans and other benefit programs to attract high-quality employees. One of the things small business representatives told us at committee was that they needed a pension plan that would help them, not only retain their great employees but to help them attract new employees to their industry or business. A pooled registered pension plan would allow that to happen.
I want to remind members of the House and those watching that we are at second reading. What we are trying to do today is move this from the House to committee. With the three days that we have allocated for second reading, we have 42 speakers in 42 time slots. The bill then goes to committee so we can discuss the individual issues. We can have witnesses come to talk to us about what components are working, what needs to be changed and what can be improved. That is what we are doing today.
However, let us look at the components. One is the low cost. I have heard my colleagues across the way ask how we can guarantee it would be low cost. I am a member of OMERS as I used to be a municipal employee. OMERS now has the ability to allow me to have my own independent investments through RRSP managed by it. Why does it tell me it is a good idea? First, it is a good investor. It has a good group of people managing it as a third party and they are smarter than me on the investment piece.
Second, because of the numbers OMERS has, there are lower costs than for me to invest individually in RRSPs. It is a pooled system that OMERS is offering to members for other investments that it will manage at a lower cost. This is exactly what the pooled registered pension plans would do. It is large pools of revenue that it is able to invest at a lower cost because it has a larger pool to deal from. it knows that is coming.
Another piece that is vitally important here and that people seem to be missing the point on is this. They are saying that it is just another RRSP. However, people voluntarily put money into an RRSP, whereas if a company has a pooled retirement pension plan, people are automatically enrolled in it. They would have to withdraw from that plan. It is just like the CPP, in which people are automatically enrolled. Someone has to make a personal investment decision as an individual employee to withdraw, otherwise that person is in the plan.
Frankly, I think it is a better way to go to have people automatically enrolled in the program. Then they at least have to look at their investment plan and make a decision on their own. For lots of people, my neighbours and I included, making investment plans and decisions can be difficult. It is often much more practical, efficient and appropriate to leave it to a third party to do. People will be enrolled in this plan and will be saving for their retirement. Someone would have to decide not to save for their retirement to get out of a pooled retirement pension plan. That is a fundamental difference with an RRSP, which we have heard lots about.
Portability is another important issue I want to talk about. In a pooled retirement pension plan, if someone leaves a company to go to another one, that person can continue to have those retirement benefits in the pooled plan.
Let us be honest, if they leave one company to go another and do not contribute to the plan as a new employee, the company will lose that employee's contribution. That is true, and that is a choice people will make when they change jobs. They will have to look at the benefits they are going to get, including the opportunity for retirement, all of which will be part of that pension plan decision and the reasons they might move. At least it is portable and people will not lose those benefits, as they can move from one company to another.
The final thing I want to talk about is that it would effectively be available to everyone. Right now large corporations have some sort of contribution plan. Some have a defined pension plan, which I know is becoming increasingly rare. However, larger firms seem to be able to have contribution plans, as they can afford the management costs and they have HR departments to look after those types of things.
The largest employer in my riding of Burlington employs 600 people. The vast majority of the thousands of people who work in my riding work in small- and medium-sized businesses or sole proprietorships. All three will now have the ability to join a pooled registered pension plan, an option not available now.
Finally, I want to say this. We have heard lots about the government not boosting the CPP. The parliamentary secretary who spoke before me talked about it. Let us deal with the facts: the facts are that we need the agreement of two-thirds of the provinces, with two-thirds of the population, to actually make a change. We cannot disrespect the provinces and premiers. If they do not want to move on the CPP issue, we do not have the right or legislative ability to override their decision.
However, we do have agreement to move forward with a pooled registered pension plan program. All the provinces, at different levels, will have to have their own legislation. We have been clear about that. We will have to have legislation here, and the provinces will have to have legislation. We have commitments for that to happen. That is why we are moving forward.
We can talk about CPP, as we have as a government with our counterparts at the provincial level, until we are blue in the face, and I do not mean Tory blue, but mean regular blue. However, it will not happen without the provinces' agreement. We will continue those discussions because CPP is an important pillar, an important tool, for the retirement of everyone who is working.
Nonetheless, we need to find other tools. This is one that we have agreement on, and this is one that the business community is interested in. I even had 50 people at my house on Friday night discussing pooled retirement pension plans. These people were asking if they would qualify.
This is something we need to do. We have 42 time slots for discussion. Let us get the bill to committee. If members have problems with this legislation, they can bring their issues forward there. Let us move forward and do something for Canadians, as our NDP friends claim they like to do but never do. We are doing it.