Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-26, an act to amend the Canada Pension Plan, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board Act and the Income Tax Act,
I must say that the bill proposes drastic intervention in the form of increased payroll taxes on every working Canadian in our nation. It is not just Canadian workers who would pay for the bill, but Canadian employers would likewise be required to increase their CPP contributions for each and every employee.
At a time when there are already clouds of uncertainty over our economy and employment insecurity for too many Canadian workers, the Liberal government proposes to take more cash from the pockets and books of Canadian workers and employers.
Canadian economists, Canadian business owners, and even the Department of Finance have told the Liberal government that this proposed tax hike would hurt Canadians. Analyses from Finance Canada show that this proposed tax hike would reduce employment, which is a nice way of saying it would kill jobs; reduce our national GDP; reduce business investment; reduce Canadians' disposable income; and reduce Canadians' private savings.
The Liberal government's own Department of Finance has warned the government of the harms this bill would inflict upon Canadian workers, Canadian employers, and Canada's economy. Yet, the Liberals want to steamroll this bill through Parliament.
Again, I would ask, why? What is the impetus driving this tax hike? Where is the crisis?
Finance Canada has reported that the median Canadian senior earns 91% as much as the median Canadian, which is well above the OECD average of 84%. A study by McKinsey & Company found that 83% of Canadians are on track to maintain their living standards into retirement. It seems that Canadians are saving for their retirement already. The Liberal government could take a lesson from Canadians who are saving at a rate of 14.1% of their pay, which is a marked increase from the 1990 rate of 7.7%.
Canadians understand the importance of personal responsibility, of living within one's means, and of fiscal prudence. It is too bad the Liberal government cannot achieve these same understandings.
It is my belief that the people are best served by government policy when such policy supports and provides incentives for Canadians to make sound decisions, such as saving for their future.
This is why Conservatives introduced tax-free savings accounts, TFSAs, to support and provide incentives for Canadians to save for their future. Unfortunately, the Liberal government has chosen to reduce the amount that Canadians can save in TFSAs.
This is also why our Conservatives expanded the guaranteed income supplement, or GIS, as a means of reducing the poverty rate among seniors, those who need it the most. It was a logical policy that actually worked.
I do congratulate the Liberal government for following our lead by increasing the GIS rate by a further 10% in budget 2016. I hope I can stand in this House one day and congratulate them for also restoring the contribution limits to TFSAs.
Today, the poverty rate among seniors is reported to be 3.7%, which is a significant decrease from the rate of 29%, in 1970.
As Charles Lammam and Hugh MacIntyre of the Fraser Institute wrote in the Financial Post on June 22:
Instead of expending political energy on debating CPP expansion in the misguided belief that many middle- and upper-income Canadians are not saving enough for retirement, the focus of public debate should be on how best to help financially vulnerable seniors.
I say, do it today. While savings are up and the poverty rate among seniors is down, I believe that governments ought to concern themselves with the responsibility of supporting our seniors who need support today, especially the 3.7% who remain in poverty. Unfortunately, this bill would do little to support these seniors this year, next year, or the year after that.
This bill proposes an increase in CPP benefits and that Canadians wait and wait a little longer, and wait a little longer yet, for the next 40 years. If the prevailing trend is that Canadians are saving more and investing and doing their own planning and strategizing for their futures, why is the government not supporting those responsible decisions? Canadians are speaking with their actions when it comes to planning for their retirement, and this bill before us today would undermine Canadians' ability to plan for their future by saving. The finance department's own analysis projects a 7% reduction in private savings over the long run if higher CPP contributions are imposed upon Canadians.
In 1964, the Liberal minister who was tasked with establishing the CPP, the Hon. Judy LaMarsh, stated that the CPP “is not intended to provide all the retirement income which many Canadians wish to have. This is a matter of individual choice and, in the government’s view, should properly be left to personal savings and private pension plans.” Who in this House can disagree with that logic?
Allowing Canadians their individual choices seems a natural conclusion, but not for the current Liberal government. The Liberal government remains bent on steamrolling this bill through Parliament and right across every paycheque, every Canadian worker, and the bottom line of every Canadian employer. Canadians are not comfortable with the proposals in this bill. Seventy per cent of employed Canadians oppose a CPP expansion if it means a wage freeze. This begs the question of whether wage freezes could result from this tax hike. According to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, “Two thirds of small firms say they will have to freeze or cut salaries and over a third say they will have to reduce hours or jobs in their business in response to a CPP/QPP hike”. Also, according to the CFIB, a full 70% of small-business owners disagree with the notion that the proposed CPP increase is modest and would have a limited impact on their businesses. The CFIB also found that 90% of small business owners think it is important to have public consultations before any deal is finalized.
The C.D. Howe Institute has also issued a report showing that the Liberals' CPP proposal would not benefit low-income workers. Low-income workers would see their premiums go up, but the net increase in their retirement benefits would remain low. This is because higher CPP payments would be offset by clawbacks in GIS benefits.
Surveys have shown that over one-third of employed Canadians say that the proposed tax increases are unaffordable. Canadians know that the proposed Liberal hike would hurt them. Moreover, over 80% of Canadians want the government to further consult before making its decision, according to another public survey.
Canadians deserve to be trusted. They deserve the freedom to make their own choices on where and how they will save their hard-earned money for their retirement. Canadians also deserve to be heard on this matter. The current Liberal government seems motivated to launch consultations on everything under their paper sun. Why not consult Canadians on this tax hike?