One of the main reasons I got involved in politics was to fight poverty. As anyone in Parliament can imagine, I am delighted with a number of the provisions in the last budget, and with the provision we are talking about today, to reduce poverty. We have had provisions that I might bring up in answers to questions related to students, families, and other vulnerable groups, such as the disabled. However, today we are talking about a bill in relation to seniors.
It may be hard for those who are not close to retirement age to think about this, but I think everyone can understand how much the cost of everything is going up when they pay their monthly bills and wonder if they can pay off their credit cards, oil bills, electricity bills, cable bills, and telephone bills. It is increasingly difficult for everyone, but it is hard for those who have not retired to imagine what stress this brings to seniors who can no longer work. They get to a certain age and their bodies start deteriorating, and they have to compete against a younger, stronger, healthier generation that has the up-to-date education needed to get a job.
Job prospects for many are very limited. We can imagine what kind of stress that causes when seniors do not know how they will pay their heating bills, buy food or clothing, or keep the lights on. I am totally sympathetic to suggestions in the House on helping that group of impoverished seniors. I am delighted that we increased some of the programs for seniors in general. It gets them out with community groups. It helps them remain happy and healthy.
I am happy with, as the Conservatives mentioned, the increase to the guaranteed income supplement, because it goes to the poorest of seniors. For seniors who have middle-class incomes, there was the middle-class tax cut. There are other provisions that will indirectly help seniors as they come into play. The biggest social infrastructure fund in Canadian history will allow for things like affordable housing.
There is an increase in homelessness. It is sad for all of us in the House to think of seniors, of all people, being homeless. One only has to go by the Tim Hortons at Queen and Kent, which I pass on the way home from my office, often at two or three o'clock in the morning. There are always three or four homeless people there who have nowhere else to go, and some are seniors.
The elements we will put into renewable resources will decrease the cost of energy. There is a fund for storage. There are ways of storing energy so that people can use energy at cheaper times of the day or at night. All of these things are pieces of the bigger picture to help people who are really in need. I cannot imagine anyone in the House who does not want to help seniors in need.
For that reason, I consider the increase in the Canada pension plan another part of the puzzle. This is a significant change. It is not as big as the Canada child benefit, which is huge, but this is big. Instead of people getting one-quarter of their incomes in retirement, they would receive up to one-third. People who are critical of this change would say that this is a massive increase, but I want all of us to imagine how we would live if tomorrow we got only one-quarter or even one-third of our current incomes. I do not think there are many Canadians who could live on that. There may be people who ask for other increases, but this, in itself, is a major change.
So that it will not be too disruptive financially, it will be phased in over seven years, from 2019 to 2025.
It affects at least three acts. Nothing is easy legislatively.
First, it affects the Canada Pension Plan act. That will increase the pension a person is allowed from one-quarter to one-third of income. It increases the survivor benefits too. As we can imagine, survivors are sometimes in an even more desperate situation. Imagine an elderly women who is left as a survivor if she cannot work. She has spent most of her life caregiving, taking care of family. She does not have the skills and may not have the health. Obviously, with today's costs going up, she needs increased funding, so this will increase the survivor benefits. It would be the same for people with disabilities. Some of them have limited opportunity, so they will get this increase as well.
The Canada Pension Plan act also has to change the maximum level of pensionable earnings. It will also allow for the required additional contributions beginning in 2019.
I am sure that all of us have heard people say that they would like to donate more to their pensions, but there is a limit. This will increase to 14% as of 2025. The bill will also set up, for the purpose of implementing this change, an additional Canada pension plan account and the accounting required to manage that account.
In the act there are also financial provisions for reviewing the act, so we have to make adjustments to those and to the Governor in Council regulations that relate to them.
The second act we have to deal with is the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board Act. Once again, a lot of these are just administrative changes for the simple goal of having higher contributions and salaries. The investment board that invests these funds comes under an act, and adjustments have to be made so that it can take into account these new funds and provide them to the Canada pension plan.
Finally, there are a couple of changes to the Income Tax Act. First is increasing the working tax benefit. I think most people understand the benefit of a working tax benefit. We do not want to be penalized for going to work. People who are in desperate situations who are not at work are getting some assistance. Of course, it is barely enough to live on. The working income tax benefit, I think everyone here probably agrees, is a big incentive that allows people to work and still keep some of their benefits. That has to be changed in the Income Tax Act. Then there is a deduction for an additional employee contribution.
It is a momentous agreement the premiers came to. I am sure all of us here understand how difficult it is to get all the provinces together to agree to a change like this. It is a shared provincial and federal responsibility, so none of us can do it alone. We have to have an agreement.
I think it is a good grassroots type of feeling that all the premiers are on side and the federal government is on side. That is what will lead to greater prosperity for the seniors we see who are otherwise having to make decisions about whether to buy nutritious food, keep their heat on, or have cable television, when they are home much of the day because they have health problems and are not able to work.
For that reason, I support the bill.