Yes, but with a heart. That is the difference. We need the money to spend afterwards. We need a viable economy because I know how to spend the money.
Of course, we want jobs first and a good economy at the same time. Then we can refine our social programs to have the fantastic safety net about which Canadians are so pleased.
This being said, and despite the way Opposition is teasing me-I take it that it is all in friendship which, of course, is very dangerous when it comes from them-let me speak about the money which the Minister of Finance (Mr. Lalonde) has provided in his Budget. In that Budget the Minister of Finance referred to the amount that this new program will cost. Of course, nothing can be established without a cost and I am proud that the Government saw fit to put aside, among its new expenditures, funds for two programs; jobs for young people in particular and funds for seniors in need to whom we have promised it as soon as the economy allows.
This year the increase will raise expenditures by $250 million. In the next fiscal year, 1985-86, there will be an additional cost of $460 million because the spending will be
June 4, 1984
over the full fiscal year. I am pleased that we are hearing less criticism that these are non-productive expenditures and that mine is a non-economic ministry. I am prepared to answer those criticisms.
That $250 million which we just added to the Budget and for which I am asking support at the second and final stages of this Bill will provide an additional $24 in the next month's cheque for single GIS pensioners. That money will return directly to the economy. It will be spent in the daily budget of those people and will return more rapidly to the economy than other savings as they meet their basic and immediate needs. It will increase consumer demand. In order to convince people that this is not wasted money, I can go as far as arguing that this expenditure of funds has an economic benefit that is equivalent to creating 3,000 new jobs this year and another 2,000 jobs next year. I suggest that there are not only social benefits to these social expenditures but economic benefits as well.
I am also asking Members to support the reform which this Act seeks to bring about. I think they will agree with it because we have taken a pragmatic approach to a problem that is typical of Canada as a country of immigrants.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to make one comment, and I think you will understand, since you are from Quebec yourself. Dr. Camille Laurin, who is now the Quebec Minister for Social Affairs, after a rather stormy career with the Department of Education-and I hope he will not take the same kind of action in our social affairs field-Dr. Laurin has stated all of a sudden that he wants to patriate old age security pensions. In the course of my usual activities on the weekend, I spoke to quite a number of senior citizens groups. There were senior citizens from various parts of Quebec, and these people came to ask me, to plead with me to keep the pension so that I would be there to make sure there were no problems and the Province of Quebec did not make a hash of something that was working quite well. So I would like to reassure our senior citizens and say that this is a lot of rhetoric! There is no reason at all for patriating pensions. The system has always worked very well. I would rather not make any more political comments than I have to, but I must say that I am rather surprised at this Government, this separatist Government which not so long ago said through its Premier, Mr. Levesque, that senior citizens were a total loss, that it was their fault that the people who wanted Quebec to separate had lost the referendum and that senior citizens were holding Quebec hostage because they would not allow the province to separate, but on the other hand, they would all be dead in a few years and then we could have another referendum!
I would just like to say one thing. There will always be pensioners, there will always be senior citizens in Quebec, with the intelligence and discernment to realize what the advan-
Old Age Security Act
tages are for Quebec within Confederation. Therefore, despite Dr. Laurin's ideological dreams, old age pensions will stay where they are. If Dr. Laurin wants to give Quebec senior citizens more, or if he wants to give something to people between 60 and 64, he can do so right now. According to the Constitution, he does not need the permission of the federal Government and he does not even have to consult me, he can go ahead and do it. That is something we must not forget. Other provinces do it and refer to these additional payments as top-ups. Many provinces do this for their senior citizens.
I said we were also making a few other reforms to the system. One touches immigrants. Canada in that sense is a special country. We have immigrants who come here permanently. At the beginning of 1977 I became Minister of National Health and Welfare. That year we reformed the old age pension system for immigrants because Canada's rules were all or nothing. A person had to have many years of residence or he or she did not qualify. One did not have an image of the exact situation. Under my predecessor, who is now the Minister of Finance, amendments were brought in which changed the number of years of residence needed to qualify. The qualifications were more practical reflecting Canadian reality. We opened the door to all reciprocity agreements signed with other countries. Roughly one-third of our population comes from other countries. People who came from other countries had neither sufficient years of residence in their own country nor in Canada to qualify for a full pension. We organized a system allowing pensions to be brought from other countries which could then be combined with earned pension rights here.
Oh!-And since the Member for Kent (Mr. Bossy) who happens to be of Belgian origin is right next to me, I would like to say that on May 10 of this year, I signed the latest reciprocal agreement on old age security pensions in Brussels, at the Palais des comtes d'Egmont, an agreement which will make it possible for all Canadians of Belgian origin, immigrants of Belgian origin, and also people who decide to settle in Belgium, to qualify for their full pension, through the Canadian and Belgian governments. This is the sixth or seventh country with which we have signed an agreement, something that is very much appreciated, of course, by the Canadians concerned.
There was a downside to the 1977 amendments which favoured immigrants. I do not have the exact number of people affected, but a small number of Canadians of other origins do not qualify for pensions in Canada, or the GIS, for example. They do not qualify for x number of reasons. This could be aid to farmers in a person's native country not covered by any contributory plan. People could be in a situation in which they do not qualify for anything in their native land, nor in Canada. They literally fall between the two. This situation is being corrected by an amendment in Bill C-40. These people would
June 4, 1984
Old Age Security Act
be considered in a category of need. This does not open the door for people to send their older parents to Canada just to get the Canadian pension. That would not be realistic nor fair to other Canadians. But if people lived a certain number of years in Canada and are in need, they will be eligible to receive the full GIS or whatever part of the GIS they need.
There is another small change which is important. I am sure Members will all agree that each one of us is a social worker or an ombudsman in our ridings. We hear about and we see people who are outside of the system. Let me cite one case. [Translation]
Here, I would like to express my appreciation to the Hon. Member for Gamelin (Mr. Portelance), who brought the problem to my attention. I was not aware of this particular problem. The Hon. Member reasoned as follows: If the Government of Canada can go back five years to check income tax returns, and that is what happens if a person fails to pay income tax, since the Government has the authority to check returns over the last five years, then why shouldn't a person who did not know or did not apply for his old age security pension be entitled to retroactive payments for up to five years? Someone who is 71 or 70 or 69 is not entitled to retroactive payments for the years for which no application was made, although that person was unaware there was a pension. But we are changing that now.
To sum up, a person in Canada can receive only one year of retroactivity the way the system exists now.
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: OLD AGE SECURITY ACT