Mr. Speaker, I got more applause this time, so we should do this more often.
Is it something I said? The government moved to shut down debate on this bill, and I had only two minutes to speak to it last Friday. I know I did not have a Yiddish proverb ready to go then, and that must be why we must rush this bill through the House now.
I do have a Yiddish proverb today, though, just to show that I am not angry and do not hold things personally. I am told there someone named Trevor on the opposite side who loves Yiddish proverbs, and I was going to say that anger is like a thorn in the heart, so I am not angry. I do not want to be angry at the government for the next 18 minutes for shutting down debate on this bill and on our very reasonable amendment to the programming motion that the Liberals have put forward.
When I briefly spoke to this bill when we were considering it in the last sitting last week, I mentioned that this is a big issue in my riding. There are 204,000 seniors all across Canada who would be affected by these rule changes, obviously to their detriment. It would impact their financial situation, and many of them are in dire straits because they are on a fixed income. We have seen the cost of living explode. It is very difficult for seniors on a fixed income to make ends meet, especially when the government has programs that do not address their concerns. When this issue was identified 21 months ago, the government dragged its feet, so it has taken all this time to get to the point where there is now a fix in place for something that the government had introduced. Now we are being told that we have to rush it through the House without even having the minister before a committee so we can discuss the contents of the bill.
I want to draw attention to a few things that the minister said during the debate that we just had on whether debate would be not further adjourned, meaning debate will be shut down on the consideration of the matter before the House, which is the GIS change. In French, it is bâillon.
The minister said that this is a simple bill and a simple fix. That is great, but why will she not come to committee, then, to address it? That would be my response to the minister, because the amendment that forward by the member for was that we would consider this thing and make sure that the minister would have the rest of the time. Until 11 p.m., she would have to defend it before a committee, and we could actually go into the details.
I think it is a huge benefit. There are many members of the House of Commons who are here for the first time, while some others have been here for several Parliaments now. I think many would say that the work we do at the committee level is valuable. It teaches us how government services work, about the actual operations of government and the mechanics of how things are done. I have found several times that it has been useful when I go back to my constituency. When I am trying to solve a constituent's problem, I then have those details in mind. I have met the person responsible for the program or I have met the deputy minister who is responsible for administering the program, and there is a touch point that we can lean on in order to get more information. We can then use that knowledge to help our constituents on case files.
In my constituency office, apart from immigration case files, seniors' issues are probably in the top two or top three in the ranking of how often per week I have to look at case files that are being managed by my constituency. What we are proposing here are very reasonable amendments to have greater accountability and transparency. It is an opportunity for members of the opposition to ask a minister questions.
I do not know why the government does not like this. During this whole pandemic, we have seen at every juncture and opportunity that the government has tried as much as possible to avoid any type of ministerial accountability for the legislation that it is putting forward. We have seen this with many of the pandemic bills that the government has put forward. The Liberals try to rush them through in a few days. We met in committee of the whole at different times. While we have longer question periods, at the end of those typical days, legislation would be passed. We would ask very technical questions and there would be no response, or sometimes we would just hear talking points or a promise that things would work out later on, but time and again we have seen that they have not worked out.
If we look at the Public Accounts of Canada reporting on how different funds have been spent and at the different Auditor General performance reports on some of the programs that were used during the pandemic, time and again we see that things have not gone according to plan. The criteria were not followed. People got different types of benefit programs that they were not eligible for.
Can we remember situations when it was on the opposite side? Here we have a situation in which the government wanted to help seniors, wanted to provide them with additional support, wanted to ensure they were looked after, but it failed to do that, even though it was warned by opposition parties and stakeholder organizations at the time that there was a problem in the way it was approaching the legislation and the regulations. It is not as if it was not warned at the time.
What we are talking about here, as shown by the government's own 2021 fall economic statement and fiscal update, is $742.4 million. That is what has been allocated. I would say to my constituents that this is not chump change. It is quite a bit of money. Three-quarters of a billion dollars is an incredible amount of money to be rushed through the House in order to patch a mistake that the government made.
As I said, I am not personally angry that debate was shut down. It was probably something I said, but hopefully not. However, I marvel at the fact that the says she appeared before the committee to talk about her mandate letter, but she will not go to the committee to talk about $750 million that her department will be responsible for spending or at least the actual execution of the mandate letter. She would not be willing to speak to the committee and answer questions from parliamentarians.
It is perfectly reasonable. We see it in question period, which is a much shorter period of time, but committee is where we really get to drill into the details, get down deep into how the departments function, on which dates people will be paid, what the mechanics are, how the government will ensure that people do not get missed, what will happen with single seniors between 60 and 64 and how they will be treated in the system.
Time and again, constituents who have fallen through the cracks come to my office. I think all of us in this House have this experience. People do not go to their MPs' offices if there is a simple solution, because there is so much information available online and seniors lean on their kids to help them out if they are not comfortable using the Internet. I find a lot of them are very comfortable doing it, but they go to their MPs because they have fallen through the cracks. There are layer upon layer of government programs, and they just happen to be in unique situations. Life circumstances are involved, and every single time, it is not something that can be resolved in an hour. It is a multi-day affair. The MP's office becomes like an ombudsman's office essentially, trying to touch base with every single department to try to sort out the problem.
Sometimes the constituent, though well-meaning, has made mistakes on the file. In this situation, we have an opportunity to get it right, to make sure there is no clawback, and we set things right for the future. Conservatives support it, which is what we have said all along. We just want that extra bit of accountability and transparency from the so that we can do the right thing from the beginning and get the details. I have often gone back to a parliamentary committee transcript to read the questions that were asked when I knew there were technical civil servants at the table being asked very technical questions so I could pass the information they provided on to a constituent who was interested in a particular issue.
I remember being at the OGGO committee, which is the government operations parliamentary committee of this House, on issues involving Canada Post. I travelled with that committee all over eastern Canada, the Maritimes and Atlantic Canada as part of a review. I read through the whole transcript, and it really got me ready so that when community mailboxes were being set up in some of the northern communities in my riding, I was able to explain to constituents how the system worked, why they were doing it and what the logic of it was.
I do not see why the cannot appear at committee. That is really what it comes down to. All Conservatives have been asking for is greater ministerial accountability on government spending. As I said, it is $740 million-plus that will be spent.
The government is trying to rush this motion through. The only reason I can imagine is that it wants to score some points, maybe win some favourable public opinion for seemingly doing something, but the Senate is not even going be considering this bill because it is not sitting. The other place, as we are supposed to call it, will not be considering this bill, so speeding the bill through the House of Commons will not resolve anything.
These things can be negotiated among the different sides. We Conservatives have shown ourselves to be fairly reasonable and we have shown that at times we support legislation. We say we support the principle and the content, but we would like to see accountability from ministers. I do not think it is a lot to ask of a minister to appear before a committee, for whatever length of time, and answer the questions that parliamentarians have. There are perfectly logical things we could do to address both the individual concerns we are hearing from our ridings and then the more operational, structural concerns with the government programs.
Between old age security and the guaranteed income supplement, these programs are some of the most expensive government programs that we operate right now on behalf of our seniors, especially lower-income seniors. They form the basis of the retirement system in Canada. When a person goes to a financial planner at a bank or an independent broker, they will avidly and strongly advise them to set up their finances so that they can access old age security. For some seniors who wind up in the lowest-income tier, they will completely rely on the guaranteed income supplement, which is why this clawback is so punishing for them.
Old security is the most expensive government program. However, during the debate that we had on whether we should shut down debate, the minister crowed about how good it is that we had this CPP supplementary kind of benefit that was being added on. The way she talked, it implied that all seniors across Canada are getting this benefit today, but that is not how the CPP works, and I am pretty sure the minister knows this. People accrue benefits as they pay into the Canada pension plan, and when they retire at the end of 30 or 40 years of working, they get to draw from that pension, but they have to accrue the benefit before they get it. I do not think it is right to give people the wrong impression that they would instantly have these benefits provided to them because the government made some changes.
However, this would actually impact geriatric millennials, or people in my age group. People, like those on my staff, who are much younger than I am are the ones who are paying more into the Canada pension plan, which is an awful return on investment for their generation, because there are so many benefits that have to be paid out. They lose control of that asset, of their income, when they could decide on what they want to save into for the future return they are supposed to get. I mean, potentially 30 or 40 years from now, they will be drawing a higher CPP than the same person with the same number of years of work would today.
Oftentimes when I hear this type of debate, with the Liberals trying to explain everything they have done for seniors, there is a lot of misleading going on. We have to be fair with people. Do not give people false hope. We have to be straight and up front with them, which is why we have parliamentary committees. That is where the opportunity comes to study the questions that our constituents are asking. I also get very technical questions from people who spend an incredible amount of time looking at OAS and GIS eligibility. They are trying to figure out their finances, because maybe they do not have a financial adviser, and are kind of relying on the office of their member of Parliament to fill some of that gap. Again, this is why I think it is perfectly reasonable to ask for this type of work to be done.
Look at the context that we are debating this in. Our side is saying that we support the bill, but some of our members would like to raise individual case files and individual issues. I know the New Democrats did this too. When I was going through the transcript to see what the New Democrats had mentioned, they actually raised case files of individuals in their ridings who had been affected by this particular change. I give them credit for that, but I do not give them credit for voting with the government on this one and shutting down debate in the House.
The role of a parliamentarian in this place is to raise issues and represent our ridings in Ottawa, not to represent Ottawa to our ridings. I think there is a huge distinction between the two. When I think about the work we do and the context that we are in right now, we are debating a bill to fix an error the government made months and months ago. I think everybody recognizes that, but some of us admit it more readily than others.
Yesterday, the government basically said that it was going to invoke the Emergencies Act. This is the context in which we are debating a bill that we essentially agree on. All the opposition has asked for is just a little more accountability from one government minister, not all government ministers, but let us have that one minister appear at one committee of the House of Commons to answer some questions for an extended period of time. It would not grind this place to halt. We could all come to an amicable agreement on how long it would take to be done, and it is in our amendment that we proposed.
We are infinitely reasonable and trying to be constructive here on how we go about this, but let us look at the situation we find ourselves in. Our country is more divided than it has ever been before. We have some of the worst finances this country has ever seen. We have a situation where people have taken on more personal debt than at any other time, and the lower they go into the income tiers the more debt they have taken on. The people who have done the best are in the highest income tiers. For them, this pandemic almost did not directly impact their bottom line.
We can look at some of the commentary from the member for on how the government was handling this pandemic. This program is in answer to some of the harm that has been done to the economic situation of many seniors. The member for Louis-Hébert noted, and this is almost a direct quote from him, that not everybody can work from their cottage on a MacBook, and he is right. There are many people at the lower income scale. I have a lot of construction workers in my riding, a lot of general labourers in my riding and a lot of people who used to work in oil and gas and who are out of work because of the government's harsh anti-energy worker policies. These people are just looking for a way out, just to make some income, just to get through. I have a lot of seniors who have gone back into the workforce with a lot of experience and they are competing with people who are entering the workforce for the same jobs. It is making it difficult.
The city of Calgary has one of highest unemployment rates in the country right now because of the economic policies, because of the pandemic, and now we have a lot of seniors returning to work, some part time. When they are looking at their finances and at accessing old age security and the guaranteed income supplement in some situations, this all has an impact. These are very complex government programs and I think we owe it to them to have the before a committee, with her officials, to explain how this is supposed to work. I would like an explanation as to how they could have ever made the mistake in the first place so that we find ourselves here.
Since this happened, about 21 months ago, we had a federal election. It was not even fixed before then. They knew this was going to happen, and it could have been fixed then.
To remind us of the Yiddish proverb, I am not angry that the government has now decided to and won the vote to shut down debate. It is a thorn in the heart to be angry. It is allowing someone to live rent-free in one's head. For our seniors in this country, this should not be how government functions. We should be putting accountability and transparency first, at the very front end. Asking one government minister out of 40 to appear before a committee is not asking too much. It is not asking too much to have 11 parliamentarians sit down and ask them pointed, direct questions about how this is going to fix this and if there is anything else we need to know.
In the 's own words, this is a simple bill. This is simple legislation. If it is so simple, why can it not go to a parliamentary committee to be reviewed? I hope the government will reconsider its position and will vote with us to have a committee and to have the minister appear with her officials to answer our questions.
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to address a few points that the member across the way has raised and, at the same time, share some thoughts that not only I have, but all members of the House have, in regard to seniors in general. This is a very important and hot topic among my Liberal colleagues as we continue to strive and improve the lifestyle of our seniors and be there for them in a very real and tangible way. I am going to highlight a number of things we have been able to do for seniors over the last six years.
First, I will address the issue of how the Conservative Party wants to twist this issue of process and why the government is where we are today with what is a very important piece of legislation.
The legislation we have before us today is here because of the pandemic. During the pandemic, the Government of Canada, with support and encouragement from different levels of government, from Canadians in general and from MPs who were advocating, came up with a series of brand new programs that virtually started from nothing. They were a direct response to the pandemic. When we brought in programs virtually from nothing, there were, no doubt, issues that would arise. This is one of those issues, and it is an issue that today the government is addressing through legislation because of the impact it has had on our seniors. Some are trying to give the impression that the government is trying to fix a problem it created and that somehow the government has been negligent. However, this is unfortunate given the consistent supports and actions of the government for seniors since 2015 when we were first elected, let alone during the pandemic.
Yes, there have been some issues to deal with, but I suspect, after hearing comments from the opposition, that they will be supporting the legislation. I am encouraged to hear that. However, on the other hand, they are critical of the manner in which this is being processed and of not only the government but also the New Democratic Party. It is interesting that when the New Democrats do something the Conservatives do not like, they say there is a coalition between the New Democrats and the government. I think Canadians would rather see a coalition between the New Democrats and the Liberals than a coalition between the Conservatives and the Bloc. At the end of the day, the Conservatives have this default position: For anything the government wants, just say no. They know full well that they need their coalition to continue to frustrate the government's agenda. They know they can often count on the Bloc, but they get all upset if the NDP does not follow their recommendations. They get upset with the NDP because the NDP will not listen to the Conservative agenda, and then they say it is a coalition.
I can tell colleagues that the government has operated with all three opposition parties, collectively together. At times we have operated with the New Democrats separately, like today, and at times we have operated with the Bloc separately. We appreciate the mandate that we have been given by Canadians, and it is a very clear message: Canadians want us to work together.
We saw a very good example of that back in December with conversion therapy. Members will recall that the entire House recognized the importance of conversion therapy and the legislation before the House. The Conservative Party members were the ones who recommended that we do not have second reading, committee stage, report stage and third reading, the whole process. They wanted to go right to royal assent, and the bill was passed unanimously. This shows that when it is convenient for the Conservatives and they feel it is important, it is okay and debate and committees are not necessary.
It is not the first time they have done that. They even attempted to get unanimous consent when there was no unanimous consent for getting what they believe is priority legislation through the House of Commons. If they disagree, it is anti-democratic, and the government is wrong because they we want to see something. There seems to be a bit of a double standard being applied. On the one hand, the Conservative Party now says this is important legislation and recognizes it is important legislation. After all, its members are going to be voting for the legislation. I understand the Bloc is going to be voting for the legislation too. However, the Conservative-Bloc coalition does not like the manner in which we are trying to get it through. The NDP supports the legislation and has been advocating for significant changes to take place regarding the compensation issue. It also recognizes that it is important to get this legislation through as quickly as possible.
The Conservatives say that the Senate is not sitting this week. As I pointed out yesterday, let us take a look at the legislative agenda. In the number of weeks we sat, we brought in legislation dealing with the coronavirus. The number one issue of Canadians for the last two years has been taking on the coronavirus. We can talk about Bill , Bill , Bill , Bill and now Bill , which are all legislative measures that deal directly with supporting Canadians and that deal specifically with the coronavirus, whether it is through programs that have been brought in, programs we are trying to extend to continue supports or the bulk-buying of things like rapid tests, which we debated yesterday. All of this stuff is important legislation.
We all know there is a finite amount of time to deal with legislation. It is not like we can debate a bill for 10 days and have it go to committee for two weeks. If it were up to the Conservatives, for anything they disagreed with, and even for things they agreed with, they would try to speak things out in order to frustrate the government. They would want to bring bills to committee for indefinite periods of time, with no commitment to get them through.
We are still in the pandemic. There is still a sense of urgency, even this week alone. Yesterday, we debated $2 billion-plus for rapid tests to ensure the provinces, territories and businesses in our communities have the necessary tests. Today is about seniors and making sure we are there to support them by putting money in their pockets. We still have other important pieces of legislation that have to be dealt with this week, if at all possible. I am thinking of the Emergencies Act. We also still have the opposition day motion from the Bloc party that has to be dealt with, and we have two short days this week.
Are the Conservatives saying that debate on our seniors, the rapid tests or the Emergencies Act should all just be postponed by 10 days or a couple of weeks because it is convenient for the Conservative opposition party? Ten days from now they can come back and ask why it has taken the government so long.
On the issue of the Standing Orders, I approach them not just as a member of government. I spent many years in opposition. I understand the importance of accountability, transparency and the process inside the House. I hope to engage with members in regard to our Standing Orders. We need to modernize them. We have plans and processes in place to accommodate debates, committees and votes. We see that. As I cited yesterday, whether it is on emergency debates in the chamber, opposition day motions, private members' bills or private members' motions, there are all sorts of limits.
What we have seen in the past 10 years, because we have to factor in the era of former prime minister Stephen Harper, is that we need tools to ensure that government bills can also get through in a timely fashion. That is why we are debating this motion today. If members believe it is important to support our seniors by getting money in their pockets, this is a piece of legislation members urgently need to support. The timing is very important.
The has met with opposition members and has been before committee. At committee, members can ask whatever questions they want of the minister. She is not shy to answer questions. We saw that earlier today, when the motion was brought forward. The department has provided information for members. Yes, we are making modifications today in order to get the money out more quickly to support our seniors. The department is working overtime to make sure we are there for our seniors in a real and tangible way.
The process we are going into today would have been preventable if, in fact, we could have had support from all opposition parties in saying that we could pass this legislation. In an ideal situation, it would be something that would be negotiated. However, the government is not in a position in which it can hold back on getting this legislation passed. With the support of one opposition party, we were able to ensure that our seniors would get the legislation they needed through the House of Commons. For that, I am grateful.
After 30 years of being a parliamentarian, there are some issues I hold near and dear to my heart, as I know many of us do. Our seniors, and the needs of our seniors, are of utmost importance. We often talk about the fact that where we are today as a society is all due to the seniors who were there before us, and we recognize there are needs that seniors have. I have made reference to the fact that I used to be a health critic in the province of Manitoba. I understand what those needs often require.
That is why it was so important for me personally, when I came to Ottawa, to be a strong advocate for our seniors. I remember one day when I was sitting in opposition. Former prime minister Stephen Harper was in Europe, and there was an announcement that the government was going to increase the age of eligibility for collecting OAS from 65 to 67. We opposed it, and we indicated we would get rid of it.
I remember advocating for the needs of the poorest seniors in Canada and for the importance of our social programs. I use those two examples because in 2015, when we were elected to government, two of the very first initiatives we took were, first, to reduce the age of eligibility for OAS back to 65 from 67. That was one of the very first initiatives taken. The second was to increase the guaranteed income supplement.
For those who understand the issue of poverty in Canada and want to help put more money in the pockets of our seniors, just as this bill does, in 2016 we talked about increasing, and then implemented a substantial increase to, the guaranteed income supplement. That one initiative lifted hundreds of seniors in Winnipeg North alone out of poverty, and tens of thousands across the country.
We will all become seniors, if we are not already. We ensured that the contributions to CPP would be enhanced with an agreement between provinces and the federal government, something that Stephen Harper was unable to do, to ensure that there would be more retirement money for our seniors.
In terms of the pandemic itself, and how the government stepped up to provide, that is why we have the legislation today. In our urgency to support people of Canada through developing programs such as CERB, there were some mistakes. It was not perfect, but it was important to get those programs out as quickly as possible. Now we are making a modification that is necessary to ensure that our seniors would in fact be getting money that they would have normally been receiving, but other benefit programs during the pandemic ultimately caused a problem. This would fix it. That is why it is good legislation for us to support.
During the pandemic, we brought in direct support for seniors, with a special focus on the GIS, again, and the OAS. We did it directly and we did it through other programs, such as the CERB, which is more of an indirect way. Another indirect way we did it was through supporting non-profit organizations that provide support for our seniors. We are talking about hundreds of millions, going into billions, of dollars.
The Government of Canada has been there to support our seniors because it is the right thing to do. From virtually day one, in 2015, until today, we continue to bring in budgetary and legislative measures to facilitate and support our seniors, whether with long-term care, direct money into pockets, mental health or so many other areas.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to talk about one of my favourite topics, seniors, and I have now become one.
I think it is really important that we have this discussion today. This is an opportunity for us to pull what I would call an ugly scab off of the issue of affordability for seniors, especially those living on a fixed income. This is a wound that has been festering for some time, and I want to start off by taking a look at the actual numbers and the situation that many Canadians are finding themselves in.
There are single seniors living on a fixed income getting OAS, GIS and CPP. For those who would get OAS, depending on the work that they did in their career, they might get as much as $7,700 a year. They might get, from GIS, if they received the maximum, about $11,500. If they had worked a long time and they had maximized their CPP, they might be getting around $9800.
What that works out to every month is somewhere between $2000 and $2400, depending on where they are on the scale. That is it.
These are people, if they are getting GIS, that do not have huge nest eggs. They do not have huge savings to draw upon to get them out of a bad situation. Today, the folks who define the Canadian poverty line define that line as 50% of the median income. For a single person, they are saying anybody who makes less than $3600 a month is actually living at or below the poverty line. All of these seniors we are talking about are already living below the poverty line, after they have worked their whole lives and after they have built the nation.
All this rhetoric coming from the other side is ironic. Even in the 2020 throne speech, we heard the words, “Elders deserve to be safe, respected and live in dignity.” Well, if they deserve to be respected, and if they deserve to live in dignity, that is certainly not what we are seeing today.
I want to start by describing the situation before the pandemic. I will then talk about what happened during the pandemic and where the need for Bill comes from. I want to then talk about the lack of government action when all of these issues were being raised, and make a few comments to follow up based on that.
Initially during the pandemic, recognizing that people were struggling and many people had lost their jobs, the government did make an effort and the Conservatives did support many programs to replace the income that people had been making.
Sadly, many of the people we are talking about, who are on fixed incomes, had to go out and take on other jobs just to make ends meet, just to heat their homes and have groceries on the table. In my view, that is totally unacceptable for the seniors who built the country. However, that was the reality.
What did the Liberals do during the pandemic? They decided to increase the carbon tax twice. Not just once, but twice. This put up the cost of groceries, home heating and basically all goods. At the same time, we have seen inflation increasing to where we are today at nearly 5%. People on a fixed income have zero ability to adapt to that.
We know that the lack of action we have seen in the affordable housing crisis has also just gotten worse during this pandemic. Even in a riding like mine, which is not a metropolitan riding, a person cannot find something to rent for less than $1000 a month. If someone is on a fixed income, and they are only getting $2000 a month, there will not be a lot left over for food, groceries and heating.
To get seniors living at what we are calling the poverty line might take as much as $1000 or $1500 a month, depending on the location they are living in. The government is great to talk about the increases they have made to GIS in the past that raised them $60 a month. However, at the same time, Kathleen Wynne and the Ontario Liberals raised electricity prices, so people were paying $130 more a month. They were even further behind. That is not the kind of action we need from government.
Then we saw the government come with a plan to give seniors, but only those over the age of 75, a one-time payment of $500 in August, just as it was calling an election, to remind those seniors over the age of 75 to not forget about it. Those between the ages of 65 and 75 who were living on a fixed income got nothing. As well, the government is promising a raise for those over the age of 75 for the summer of 2022.
I am happy to see the mandate letter of the now includes all seniors over 65. What she will actually do is another story, because we always see a lot of talk and not much action. I do not know why those aged 65 to 75 were excluded. I heard all the time at the doors in my riding about how they were finding it just as tough to live as those over the age of 75.
If we keep in mind that these people do not have any other income to draw on, we can see the government was aware of the problem very early on. In March of 2020, at the start of the pandemic, I was already emailing the then minister of seniors to say that we had a problem. The people who took CERB who were also on GIS would have their GIS impacted the next year. This was raised in March of 2020. In March of 2020 the government was aware that it was a problem, and nothing was done at that time.
One of the issues I have with the government bringing this bill here today, and deciding that it needs to be rushed through, after over a year of inaction, is that there was a fix for these seniors who had their GIS reduced, who cannot pay their rent or buy food to eat. Some in my riding lost their homes and have become homeless, and they needed that money immediately.
The government had the ability to put the money in their accounts immediately. How do I know this? Let us think about it. The government knows who gets the GIS. It is deposited in the accounts of those seniors every month. It knows who got the CERB, because it deposited that into their accounts as well. It certainly knew how to put in that $500 “do not forget to vote for us” payment for the people over age 75 in August.
Therefore, it could have just as easily recognized the impact this was going to have, put that money into their accounts and reconciled it later. It did that with the 800,000 Canadians who received a benefit to which they were not entitled, and which it is now trying to reconcile.
With the hardships that Canadian have faced, these seniors who call my office are crying. They are losing their homes. They cannot afford to eat. Something has gone wrong, perhaps with their car, and they now have no ability and no mobility. It is unfortunate that the Liberals could not, at the very least, address the problem and then come back to fill in any gaps in the legislation. They have not had any issue in the past doing things through orders in council and using various tricks, which do not involve coming to Parliament, to get whatever it is they want to spend. However, when it comes to seniors, they just forgot about them.
After I flagged the problem in March, the minister said the government would deal with it. Then it paid out benefits to people who lived in other countries. It paid out benefits to people who were ineligible. When the new came in in October, I asked her if there was something that could be done about it, because I had people in my riding who were writing me stories that were enough to make one cry. I could certainly read out their testimonies.
In May of 2020, the Minister of Seniors was before the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and was given a prepared binder by the department officials. In that binder, under section 7.2, under the heading of “Questions and Answers: COVID‑19 Economic Response Plan”, the question in the book reads, “Will income from the Canadian emergency response benefit be used in the calculation of guaranteed income supplement benefits?” The answer was “It is considered to be taxable income and must be considered when determining entitlement to the guaranteed income supplement, GIS, and the allowances”. Therefore, the government actually knew then that the problem existed, but it has done nothing for a year, and here we are.
The Conservatives brought a very reasonable amendment. We understand, and we want to see seniors get their money. However, not to make this point too many times, the government could do that today if it really had the political will, but it does not. We said that we have to respect the parliamentary process. We see, too many times, the Liberals wanting to avoid parliamentary process and wanting to push things through the House. We see that they have already limited debate on the bill, as they do on many other bills, after saying they would never do that.
Here we are. We need time to debate the bill and time to amend it, because of some of the things that happened over the course of the pandemic where programs were put in place that had shortcomings, which were pointed out immediately and were never repaired. We can think of the many small businesses that were impacted at the beginning of the pandemic when they were not eligible if they were sole proprietorships. They were not eligible if the business had just started up and did not have a full year of revenue and business statements to show. There were quite a number of people who were impacted because the programs that were rolled out were flawed. Why were they flawed? It was because the Liberals tried to rush them through Parliament.
I would argue that it is worth taking some time, and I think the Conservatives brought quite a measured little amendment to this motion that would give us the time that we need to look into making sure that everything is as it should be. In our amendment, we are saying to send it to committee, get the there so that we can hear everything from her and her departmental officials, ask all the questions, identify those things that need to be repaired and fix them. We could then immediately do the clause-by-clause, make the amendments that need to be made, bring it back to the House and then get in the express lane and not use any amendments at report stage or anything like that but go right to third reading and off to the Senate.
Keep in mind that the Senate is not even sitting in the next week. We can say “emergency”, but due process is that it goes through the stages of this House and then it goes to the other place, which is not even sitting. We can hurry up here, but they will not be there to receive it and process it.
We need to correct the problem because seniors are already in a bad place. I talked about the small amount of money that seniors are making. I talked about how dire it is getting, and it is only going to get worse as we see the supply-chain issues that are currently being impacted by the trucker mandates and the lack of action on the part of the to address this.
As a sidebar, I think it is unbelievable that the has called for the Emergencies Act to be put in place when he was not even using the actions he already had the power to take in order to end the supply-chain issues that are driving up the cost of everything and making this problem even worse.
Seniors are going to have a very difficult time waiting another six months before they receive their payments, so I encourage the government to do what it can to make sure that seniors receive their payments as soon as possible after we have the discussion on the bill. At the same time, I must say that we have to look ahead to the future. We have one in six seniors in the country right now, and it will be one in four in just a few years. We cannot allow them to be this far away from living, at least, at the poverty line.
Some of the measures that can be taken would be to accelerate the OAS and GIS payments. I know the Bloc and the Conservatives supported a motion in the last Parliament that did not go ahead because of the present government. I encourage the government to try to get seniors back to where they need to be, and I am going to do my part.
There are seniors who thought they were going to be able to retire with a pension and are unfortunately not able to do that or have less pension than they expected because their employer went bankrupt. I am bringing a private member's bill forward, Bill , the pension protection act, which would cause businesses to every year table a report on the solvency of their fund so that we have transparency to see whether those funds are in good shape. If they are not, it would provide a mechanism for funds to be transferred in without tax implications. Then, if the organization cannot transfer and top up the fund immediately, they would have the ability to get insurance while they are able to, over a series of years, restore the fund to solvency. In the case of bankruptcy, pensions would be paid out to seniors and they would be paid out before large bonuses to executives and large creditors.
This would solve the problems of many seniors, including those who have lost their employment due to the bankruptcies of Eatons, Sears, Algoma, Caterpillar, Nortel and numerous other companies that have left employees in that situation. We can see from the information I read at the beginning of my speech that if seniors have to rely on OAS, GIS and maybe CPP, they are still living below the level that Canadians would consider acceptable. We cannot have that for our seniors. It is very hard for our seniors when they see new people coming into the country who are receiving more money than they are making, when they helped build the country. I think we can agree that we want all Canadians to be living with a reasonable standard of living.
The last thing I am going to say on this topic of Bill is that I do need to commend the new for at least bringing the legislation forth in reasonable time. She is not the one who knew about it last year and did nothing, so at least we have the bill before us today. As has been said, the Conservatives will support this to go to committee, but we will have our eyes on the legislation to ensure it is solid and we are not going to see more loopholes that would cause further issues for our seniors.
At the same time, I could not get up and speak about seniors in this place without talking about some of the other advocacy I have done on behalf of seniors. As members know, I brought forward a palliative care bill in the first session of Parliament, and I would say there has never been more of a need to continue the work done on that. Now, with the pandemic, we have been distracted from that. I would encourage the government to come up with a plan to exit the pandemic and restore the economy, so that we can then start talking about some of the other issues that are facing seniors. They certainly need to have good options at end of life to get the dignity the throne speech indicated. They certainly need to be able to get the drugs and essential medicines they require.
Certainly, I want to see the government do something on that, but today the call is for the government to listen to the Conservatives and take our advice. Let us support the motion my colleague brought forward, which says, let us get this to committee, all sit down, roll up our sleeves, get the amendments that are needed and then get this done. Let us not make seniors wait until July 2022 to receive the payments they desperately need today in order to keep them from becoming, in some cases, homeless.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time today with my friend and colleague from in the wonderful province of New Brunswick.
However, I would like to speak about what we have put in place from the start of the COVID‑19 pandemic. I would like to speak about this because it is also part of the support that we are providing to older Canadians.
I think it will show that our approach to the seniors issue, since day one in 2015, is one that has been consistent. It is one that comes from a trend of support for low-income seniors for a very long time, a rapid approach to putting in place needed supports, especially when emergencies face our vulnerable populations, including seniors.
It is vitally important to pass Bill quickly. This motion today has been well defended. I think that will be clear once we understand how a low-income senior faces so many challenges. After a lifetime of hard work, Canadian seniors have earned a secure and dignified retirement. Pandemic or not, they deserve a retirement without financial worries. Allow me to briefly touch on the many of things we have done for seniors since forming government in 2015.
The Liberal government has strengthened Canada's public pension system. We are helping Canadians with their higher costs later in life. For short-term support, we issued a one-time $500 payment in August 2021 to OAS pensioners 75 years and older. We are permanently increasing the old age security pension by 10% this July 2022 for those seniors aged 75 and older, providing over $766 for the first year for pensioners receiving the benefit. We must remember this benefit is indexed to inflation, so seniors will continue to receive an increase.
We restored the age of eligibility for old age security and GIS to 65 from 67 years of age. The age for eligibility had been increased by the Conservatives prior to our winning a majority government. That is something I am very proud of in the six years I have been here in the House. We are putting literally thousands of dollars back into the pockets of seniors.
As promised, our government increased the GIS by 10% for individual seniors, improving the financial security of about 900,000 vulnerable seniors. To help working seniors keep more of their benefits, we increased the GIS earnings exemption to allow seniors to earn up to $5,000 without any reduction in benefits and we provided a partial exemption for the next $10,000. It now includes self-employment income.
When our increase to the basic personal amount is fully implemented in 2023, 4.3 million seniors will benefit, including 465,000 whose federal income tax will be reduced to zero. This is something I fully championed, and it was wonderful to see it in our platform in 2019. It means up to $300 for individuals and $600 for couples. I am so glad that this was part of our 2019 platform. This is literally billions and billions of dollars in tax reductions every year for our Canadian seniors, Canadian workers, Canadian students, and it is wonderful policy.
Our middle-class tax cut in 2016 reduced the second personal income tax rate by 7%, saving middle-class Canadians an average of $330 and couples an average of $540 a year. Again, it is real change, and that goes with our mandate of helping the middle class and those working hard to join the middle class.
Seniors have also benefited from this. Tax reductions, benefit increases and policy revisions implemented by our government have reduced the number of seniors living in poverty in Canada by 11% since 2015. Our plan to improve support for seniors is working, but yes, there is still more work to do. As seniors ensure their safety by staying home during the COVID-19 pandemic, financial and other supports were and are still here. They are critical to help them access the goods and services they need and to reduce the social isolation that can take a toll on their mental health and well-being.
As the government, it was our responsibility to help, especially with those extra costs. First, we provided a one-time tax repayment of $300 to eligible OAS recipients, plus another $200 to eligible GIS recipients. We also provided a special top-up payment for the GST credit in April 2020. More than four million low- and middle-income seniors benefited from this top-up.
In addition, we announced a one-time payment for persons with disabilities, including seniors. These individuals received a total of $600 in special payments. Of course, we know we had the backs of all Canadians during the pandemic and we continue to do so. We created various income supports, such as the Canada emergency response benefit, which helped millions of Canadians, including seniors, by delivering direct payments quickly to seniors and families.
Our government was concerned not just about financial security, but also about seniors' isolation, which has real consequences. In fact, research shows that the isolation of older people can have health consequences. That is why we made it our mission to promote social participation and inclusion.
We helped connect seniors with essential services and supplies. We invested $9 million in the United Way to support more than 876 organizations across the country that offer more than 936 programs. We invested an additional $20 million in the New Horizons for Seniors program. We also funded more than 1,000 community projects to reduce the isolation and improve the well-being of seniors during the pandemic.
With regard to safety in long-term care institutions, we introduced important measures even though long-term care is a provincial and territorial jurisdiction. In addition, the safe restart agreement signed with the provinces and territories includes $740 million for support to Canadians.
Yes, we have the backs of all Canadians, and, of course, the seniors.
We want to support those who are receiving long-term care, home care and palliative care and who are the most likely to get seriously ill from COVID-19.
On top of all that, we also created a $350‑million emergency community support fund to help charities and non-profit organizations adapt the services they provide to vulnerable groups, including seniors, in response to COVID-19.
The pandemic is still ongoing. That will not stop us from putting forward additional measures to benefit seniors' financial ability. I want to give a shout-out to the 25,000 or so seniors in my riding of Vaughan—Woodbridge. I get to see them again. I have missed them over the last two years. I know they have suffered from social isolation by staying home. I am going to see them in the community centre on my break week and maybe play a little bocce or play cards.
These seniors represent the best of what Canada is about. They come from various backgrounds. They have built this country. We have to respect them. We owe them so much gratitude and appreciation for the sacrifices they have made. They have not asked for a lot. They ask to be respected and they ask us to make sure, in their golden years, that they have a secure and dignified retirement. That is what our government has done since day one.
Looking to the future, we know Canada needs to better address older seniors' needs. Seniors in Canada are living longer, which is great, and I think a key indicator of our progress as a country on all scales. As seniors age, they are more likely to outlive their savings, have disabilities, be unable to work and be widowed, all while their health care costs are rising. As mentioned before, we are responding to that need with a major OAS increase for older seniors as their needs increase.
Least but not last, we have proposed $742 million to support vulnerable seniors who have experienced reductions in the guaranteed income supplement as a result of accessing pandemic benefits.
In closing, the pandemic has not always been easy, particularly for seniors, and people are still struggling. Pandemic or not, our government is committed to giving all Canadians the opportunity to build a better life, contribute to our nation's prosperity and benefit from it. That is why we have made every effort to support all Canadians, including seniors.
We recognize the remarkable contribution Canadian seniors have made to our society and economy over the years. They can count on our Liberal government to continue to take steps to make sure they can live with dignity. Let us all come together and pass Bill expeditiously.
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for for sharing his time with me today and thank all members for engaging in this important debate.
We know how difficult this pandemic has been on seniors and how it has impacted them, their livelihoods, their quality of life, their mental health and even their safety. We all agree in the House that we need to do more to help seniors and their communities. As announced in the fiscal update, we will be delivering a one-time payment to fully compensate those affected in 2020, and today we introduced Bill to exclude any pandemic benefits for the purposes of calculating the guaranteed income supplement going forward.
I had many conversations at the doorsteps with individuals who were affected. Bill would go a long way in demonstrating that as parliamentarians we are listening and our government is responding. The fact remains that far too many seniors in Canada have been living in poverty. It was an issue long before this pandemic, but COVID, an unprecedented global health crisis, has made matters worse. Seniors who lost income and were financially struggling accessed emergency support to help them get by. Bill C-12 would protect seniors from losing their income-tested GIS payments going forward and would rectify any loss of GIS as a result of receiving COVID benefits. This would protect struggling seniors from falling deeper into poverty and rectify the unintended consequences of pandemic benefits that were designed to help.
Many seniors have been trying to survive paycheque to paycheque, and in New Brunswick the situation is worse. One in five seniors in my province lives below the poverty line and many more are just at the cusp. This is well above the Canadian average. These seniors depend on GIS to pay their rent, heat their homes and buy groceries, particularly at a time when the cost of living continues to rise. In Fredericton, the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment is now close to $1,000. Seniors desperately need the action our government is proposing.
Passing Bill also matters for our commitment to advancing gender equality, furthering reconciliation and combatting systemic discrimination. The loss of GIS payments would disproportionately impact women, indigenous people and racialized Canadians, demographics that statistically experience higher rates of poverty. It is urgent that we pass this bill and help the estimated 90,000 seniors across the country who have been impacted. Failing to pass this bill would further threaten the economic security of thousands.
I am optimistic that through the leadership of the , real and tangible change will be felt across the country. This government is committed to building a better future for seniors. As a member from Atlantic Canada, this positive change cannot come soon enough. By 2036, Canada's senior population could be close to 11 million. As the Canadian population continues to age, so does the number of older adults expecting to be living in subsidized housing. We need to look at the future and take measures now to avoid having seniors, who spent their lives building this beautiful country, reach their golden years and live under the poverty line.
I would be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to suggest that we can go further to support seniors and many others facing poverty. I am proud that this government is seriously looking to implement pilot projects on a guaranteed livable income and is moving forward on its objective to reach agreements with provincial and territorial partners to implement national universal pharmacare. I truly feel these measures, in particular, could usher in deep and lasting systemic change.
Simply put, to improve the lives of senior citizens, we must make life more affordable. I am proud to say that this government is doing just that by investing in better public transportation, affordable housing and creative programs, such as the multi-generational home renovation tax credit to help families add a secondary unit to their homes for an immediate or extended family member. This government is also working to establish an aging at home benefit so that seniors can afford to stay in their homes longer, while increasing the quality of long-term care for those who need it. We are also creating opportunities for seniors to be more connected, supported and active members of their communities through the New Horizons for Seniors program. These initiatives will help to enhance the quality of life for all Canadian seniors, and we should not stop there. It is long overdue that we return elders in our communities to their positions of honour and respect.
I want to acknowledge the organizations in my community that have been working hard to support older adults. They are making a real difference in my riding. The Stepping Stone Senior Centre and the Senior Wellness Action Group are but two great examples of those working to help connect hundreds of seniors in the greater Fredericton area to work collaboratively to develop and deliver affordable and accessible activities to meet physical, mental and social needs. They provide volunteer matching, assist with emergency preparedness, support food security and much more. They are providing opportunities for seniors to meet, to learn, to develop new skills, to socialize, to entertain, to be entertained and to be entrepreneurs, and they are serving as an information source for seniors and those who work with them, like me, while promoting the growth and development of seniors in our community.
There are important lessons that we must take forward from this pandemic, and providing adequate supports for seniors must be at the top of our priority list. We must invest in seniors and ensure that people can live in dignity and safety in their older years. We have seen many examples of Canadians being there for each other throughout this pandemic, and this must continue. In many communities around the world, elders are celebrated, they are seen as the head of their family and their knowledge is precious. We need to do more to cherish them here in Canada.
The best classroom in the world is at the feet of an elder. Let us listen to what they have been telling us. Let us pass Bill without delay.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to this bill, which is another case of the Liberal government trying to clean up after itself.
I will be splitting my time with the member for .
I come from the beautiful city of Abbotsford, which is nestled between majestic Mount Baker and the mighty Fraser River. We are very grateful to live in that community, but it is a community that has many seniors. In fact, my own office is in a tower that houses seniors.
Another element of Abbotsford that I am very proud of is the fact that Abbotsford is the most generous census metropolitan area in the country. Of all the 27 census metropolitan areas in this country, we are the most generous by a country mile. That is a good thing. It is a great model for other communities to emulate.
The reason I share this is that much of the generosity actually comes from the seniors in Abbotsford. These are seniors who contributed to building our country. These are seniors who today still contribute to the fabric of our nation, yet here we are. Some of these very seniors are well-to-do and live comfortable lives, but many are living on the edge of poverty. I know my Liberal colleagues are mocking us today. It is a shame that something as serious as this would be treated with such contempt by our Liberal friends across the way.
I will say this. The seniors in my community, many of whom are on the edge of poverty, took an incredible hit from the incompetence of the current government. This is actually a story of what was intended to be something good, which was a response to the COVID pandemic. The government, stepping up and hoping to invest in the lives of Canadians and make sure that Canadians did not slip through the cracks during the pandemic, invested heavily in support programs.
When the government invested in these support programs to help Canadians through the COVID pandemic, they forgot a few things. First, they forgot that these support programs that helped Canadians had to be properly designed to make sure that Canadians who truly needed the support received the support, that fraudsters who may have wanted to apply for these benefits did not get away with it, and that people who lived outside of our country and who did not need these benefits did not qualify for them. Unfortunately, many of the programs that our Liberal friends across the way implemented had none of those safeguards. They did not have the oversight, and they did not have the scrutiny. The Liberals rammed the stuff through the House of Commons.
Again, my Liberal colleagues across the aisle are laughing. They are laughing at seniors across our country for the pain that these Liberals have caused them.
In delivering these support programs, there were design flaws. There were oversight and scrutiny problems along the way, so that people received benefits who should not have received those benefits. There were hundreds of millions of dollars going outside of our country to people who did not even have a connection to Canada, but applied and somehow qualified for these programs.
There was a second problem. The Liberals forgot that some of the most critical programs that seniors rely on in this country, such as old age security and the guaranteed income supplement, are means-tested and depend on taxable income from the previous year. Some of these seniors applied for the government support programs. They qualified for them and they received the support. After the fact, they were told that the amounts that the government had just sent them were fully taxable, and they were going to have to include them in their taxable income.
Of course, what happened was that vulnerable seniors who trusted the Liberal government realized they would no longer qualify for the GIS. They realized that the funds they received from the government so generously were now going to be clawed back by that very same Liberal government. Therein lies the rub. The Liberals made a mistake. In the vernacular, they screwed up.
It gets worse. The Liberal government has known for almost a year that this was a problem, and that seniors were distressed in the knowledge that this money was going to be clawed back and their ability to qualify for seniors' benefits, such as the GIS, was going to be compromised. Can colleagues imagine the distress of someone living on the poverty line who is then told they have to repay thousands of dollars to the government? These were thousands of dollars that seniors did not actually have. For a year, the government has known this and failed to act.
The Liberals failed to act for a number of reasons. First, there was the situation where Parliament could have been recalled in the fall of 2021 to deal with legislation that would fix this problem. Instead, what did they do? They called an unnecessary and expensive election that changed absolutely nothing. They still are in a minority government. Over half a billion dollars was spent on an unnecessary election, and they delayed their response to a problem they had created for seniors. The election was held. Nothing has changed. The could not recall Parliament right away. He took many months before he recalled Parliament.
In the meantime, seniors have been calling my office saying, “Ed, what am I going to do? How am I going to get through this? I don't have the money to repay these benefits that they are now clawing back from me. How am I going to survive? How am I going to put food on the table? How am I going to pay rent?”
This is a problem of the Liberal government's making. Here we are now, almost a year later, and what we see are government MPs giving speeches in the House, talking about how great they are and how they love seniors, and saying that this legislation is going to provide certainty for seniors across our country. The herself, in her responses in question period, was pretending that this was not a problem. In fact, the Liberals are doing seniors a favour with this legislation. The minister's responses have been nothing short of a word salad. I think she was hoping to create some kind of a fog that seniors in this country would not see through.
The fact is that this is a problem of the Liberal government's making. Now it is asking us, as Parliament, to fix and clean up its mess. This is symptomatic of the Liberal government: It is constantly asking Parliament to clean up after it. They ask us to get out the shovels and clean up the mess.
Canadians are getting very tired of this. I hope that Canadians who are watching today understand that the problem in the House is the Liberal government and its leader. It is the most divisive, incompetent and unethical government this country has ever seen. It is incompetent even when it comes to our seniors, of all people.
I will leave those thoughts with members and the Canadian people. I hope the Liberals learn a lesson from this. They are constantly doing this: screwing up time and again. This has to stop.
Mr. Speaker, I am so glad to be in the House today to talk about this important motion. We are talking about the guaranteed income supplement and what we need to do to ensure that seniors can make it through life in Canada right now. One of the greatest jobs I had before becoming a member of Parliament was being a constituency assistant for 11 years for Joe Preston, the member for Parliament for Elgin—Middlesex—London. He was a nice guy.
For 11 years, I was able to work with him and some of the things I worked on were cases for the Canada Revenue Agency, Service Canada, foreign affairs, Passport Canada and all of those things. One of the most important things I did with the customer service we provided was to sit down with the constituents who would come into our office. They would tell us they needed to apply for something, they were only bringing in $700 for their pension and they got a little top-up from their old age security pension, but they did not have any money and their cost of living was much higher than what they received. I had the opportunity to work with seniors in my community in Elgin—Middlesex—London before entering this place for 11 years and to understand the struggles that our seniors are going through.
I look at the experience that I had from 2004 to 2015 and recognize that times have changed greatly.
I want to go back to looking at why people get the guaranteed income supplement in the first place. These are our seniors who are over the age of 65 and are not making enough money to pay their bills. They are looking for a little extra because the cost of living continues to rise. They are, in many case, on fixed incomes. They may have some annuities and they may have things like that. Many times they know that, at the end of the month, on the third day, on the last business day of the month, they are going to receive their old age security, their CPP and the top-up of their GIS, if they are low-income.
I know at the beginning of this pandemic, like all of the members in the House, we had phone calls from everybody. There were phone calls coming from small businesses. There were parents calling, who needed to go to work and there was no place to put their child. There were a lot of things happening at that time. It was important that we worked along with the government to find resolutions and to find solutions for seniors who were having a very difficult time and for people across the country who were having a very difficult time.
Just last year, of course, the government continued to talk about how they gave every senior $500. Well, it was great, because on behalf of my campaign, I would like to thank the many people who said they did not need that money. This was a universal input. They said they did not need the money and they gave it to my campaign or gave it to charities.
However, what is important here is that there are seniors who, from cheque to cheque, from month to month, know what their incomes are going to be but they do not know what to expect from their costs. A lot of this comes from the cost of inflation.
Anyone who knows me, they know I am a mom of five, and they know I love my mom and dad. My dad is one of the most inspirational people I have in my life. The thing I talk about with my dad is the cost of groceries. My dad will go through the flyer, each and every week, and will say to me, “No Frills has a ham on sale and the eye of round is on sale at A&P.” This is what my dad does. When I know the prices have gone up, I know this because my dad, my mister shopper guy, my 85-year-old senior father who goes out for groceries, tells me that things have changed.
I want to share with the House, before I get into my dad's grocery bill, a couple of scenarios that were brought into my office. Jena in my office has been there since 2015 and has worked with seniors for years, so when she calls me, panicking, that means that there is a problem. She calls panicking because she knows there are seniors who are not paying their mortgage, seniors who are not able to pay their rent that month and seniors who cannot afford their bills or their medications. That is because of what has happened today with GIS.
I have heard a lot of this conversation and I will let everyone know, as a constituency assistant, I always believe there is a solution.
Last year, when we were talking about this, my solution was to call the , where I was truly scuffed off. I explained to her my experience. I explained to her what I had seen. Basically, I was told that it would all work out. It has not worked out and I want to read these scenarios to the House.
Scenario one is a lady in her seventies who never retired and continued to work until the pandemic hit and her place of employment closed permanently. She went on CERB through Service Canada and collected the full amount. She continuously looked for work and switched from CERB to CRB, but due to her age she was unable to find employment. She thought she was being responsible and used the CRB to pay down her line of credit that she has. She was officially retired, as it looked like she was going to have to be. She also had fewer monthly expenses. Because she was unable to option off her CRB, she was no longer entitled to the GIS and her monthly income was approximately $1,100 a month.
Let us talk about $1,100 a month. I can tell everyone that if they want to rent an apartment in my town, it is $1,200 a month. If they want to rent one in London, it is $1,200 a month. If they want to rent a bedroom where people are sharing amenities, maybe it is $700. However, most seniors do not have that flexibility. We are asking a senior who is making $1,100 a month to feed themselves, to pay rent and everything else, and it is all okay. The knew this last year when I was talking to her and now, seven months later, a person making $1,100 is still making $1,100.
It is great that we are pushing through this legislation and I know we need to do this, but we have to reflect on how we got here in the first place. The government was not listening when it knew this problem was going on last year. The member for talked about that. He talked about our bringing this up for a year. That means the seniors I am talking about in my scenarios, each and every month, are having to choose between food or electricity. That is what seniors are having to do.
The second scenario I would like to mention is a gentleman who was not entitled to CRB and received $14,000 in 2020. He is now trying to live on approximately $1,100. The province is now trying to assist him as he can barely pay for his rent with that income. We have looked at some different scenarios. Let us say someone is working at Walmart and they made $500. They were being given a $2,000 CRB payment; we know that. Do people really expect these seniors were thinking that the government was going to turn around and say, “Hey, we are cutting off the GIS and this is taxable.”
Yes, all the parliamentarians here, the 338 people who would have voted to ensure that seniors and Canadians had these benefits were going to do that. We knew that there was going to be mistakes, but it has been almost two years and the mistake has not been fixed. That is the problem here. When the member for is talking about the mistakes that are being made and what the Liberals did, let us reflect on the fact that they had time to change what they were doing and for months they sat on their hands while seniors were going without. That is the bottom line.
Let us now talk about that $1,100 and what it can actually afford. I want to talk to members about the fact that seniors really do not have a lot of money to pay for these expenses. The cost of living continues to go up.
I want to talk about my dad. My dad is probably watching today because that is what he does when he is 85 years old. He sits in his house with my mom, who is 81. They go out, they get groceries, they go for a drive and they do simple things like that, and, especially during COVID, they have not had a lot of opportunities to go and enjoy life. What my parents do enjoy is grocery shopping. What they do enjoy is looking at the prices of food. What I did was I looked at the cost of living and I looked at the costs that were begin given by Stats Canada. I want to talk about my parents' shopping list, comparing it from March 2020 to December 31, 2021.
Corn Flakes have gone up from $5.88 to $6.67. It is a dollar and that does not seem like a big deal, but a dollar makes a big difference when someone does not have a lot of dollars. Bacon has gone from $6.96 to $8.66. To all of those out there, I will be honest, I love listening to Liberals talk about bacon. If people want to eat bacon, then go for it. They have the right to do so. It is their choice.
Gas is the one thing that really concerns me. Gas was $0.91 going into this pandemic in March 2020. In December, it was $1.41. Today, in the city of St. Thomas and in the city of London, it is $1.57. If my father wanted to take my mom out for a drive to go get a bacon sandwich, they cannot afford to do it very much anymore.
I think of my parents as being frugal and safe with their money. They are brilliant when it comes to finances. I think of the seniors who are living alone, who are looking for help and who are living in isolation. I think of those seniors who may not have someone else's income to help them. I think of the seniors who need somebody to come and clean their house or who need extra things like PPE. None of that is available to them.
I would like to say to the government that of course I am going to support the change to the GIS. Of course, I supported these things coming out, but the government should have fixed it last year. Please get back on track so the future generation is not lost like the Liberals have done to this generation.