Monique BÉGIN

BÉGIN, The Hon. Monique, P.C., O.C., B.A., M.A., Ph.D., D.Sc., F.R.S.C.

Personal Data

Party
Liberal
Constituency
Saint-Léonard--Anjou (Quebec)
Birth Date
March 1, 1936
Website
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monique_Bégin
PARLINFO
http://www.parl.gc.ca/parlinfo/Files/Parliamentarian.aspx?Item=99ef4591-5278-4c89-832d-2b5d3e59b294&Language=E&Section=ALL
Profession
administrator, sociologist, teacher

Parliamentary Career

October 30, 1972 - May 9, 1974
LIB
  Saint-Michel (Quebec)
July 8, 1974 - March 26, 1979
LIB
  Saint-Michel (Quebec)
  • Parliamentary Secretary to the Secretary of State for External Affairs (October 10, 1975 - September 14, 1976)
  • Minister of National Revenue (September 14, 1976 - September 15, 1977)
  • Minister of National Health and Welfare (September 16, 1977 - June 3, 1979)
May 22, 1979 - December 14, 1979
LIB
  Saint-Léonard--Anjou (Quebec)
  • Minister of National Health and Welfare (September 16, 1977 - June 3, 1979)
February 18, 1980 - July 9, 1984
LIB
  Saint-Léonard--Anjou (Quebec)
  • Minister of National Health and Welfare (March 3, 1980 - June 29, 1984)
  • Minister of National Health and Welfare (June 30, 1984 - September 16, 1984)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 1 of 330)


June 19, 1984

Hon. Monique Begin (Minister of National Health and Welfare):

Mr. Speaker, the answer is yes, the federal Government would automatically pay Mr. Levesque's Government, in other words, Quebec, 50 per cent of any increase the Government of Quebec decides to give young welfare recipients. However, although the present monthly amount of $152 is very low, the federal Government does not have the right, according to the Constitution, to ask or suggest that Quebec increase that amount. On the other hand, if the Government of Quebec, through Mrs. Pauline Marois, should take the initiative, it does not need our permission, and we would automatically reimburse 50 per cent of the amount involved.

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   SOCIAL SECURITY
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June 6, 1984

Hon. Monique Begin (Minister of National Health and Welfare):

No, Mr. Speaker, unless the Member is talking about a period of over 50 years or something like that. I do not have my dossier with me. I think he knows very well that it was not the Health Ministers who met yesterday in Toronto. It was officials and people from other Departments in charge of the funding of pensions, mainly from Finance.

Everyone in Canada knows that the rate of contribution will have to be increased because we kept it very low for 16 or 17 years. That is valid for la Regie des rentes du Quebec as well. The increase will not be of the amount the Member mentioned, and it will not be all at once. People are talking of a fraction of a percentage or one or two points at a time over the years.

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   CANADA PENSION PLAN
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June 4, 1984

Miss Begin:

Hear, hear!

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   OLD AGE SECURITY ACT
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June 4, 1984

Miss Begin:

That is illegal. We will have to correct that case by some special mechanism. A person in Canada older than 65 years of age who does not know there is a system of public pensions for whatever reason and has not applied can only receive one year's benefits retroactively.

One such case was brought to the attention of the Hon. Member for Gamelin (Mr. Portelance) who brought it to my attention. He pleaded with very powerful reasoning. I promised that as soon as we had a Bill in the House, we would include this situation. According to my officials and what we know of the situation, we think there are 50 cases a year. That means 50 Canadians are not receiving their fair share.

We are also proposing that post-mortem applications for Old Age Security benefits be allowed in cases where the deceased would have been eligible for benefits had he or she applied. This provision would also give a widow or widower, if all the qualifications were met-the person could be a spouse's allowance case-entitlement to the spouse's allowance.

In a nutshell, Mr. Speaker, several other amendments are proposed in an effort to make the Old Age Security program more equitable and efficient. Included are provisions allowing for compensating pensioners who lose any benefit entitlement as a result of administrative error or erroneous advice. I think everybody will agree that such a change was needed. This Bill

will authorize when necessary the issuance of a certificate on presumption of death, repealing an unnecessary and potentially misleading provision dealing with benefit entitlement under international social security agreements. There are, of course, changes necessary to co-ordinate Canada Pension Plan benefits with other sources for GIS entitlement purposes. Members received the details of these amendments in the special information package we distributed to all Members in the House.

As my time is coming to an end, in conclusion I should like to call upon the new government, which we will form after the next election, to make a serious effort in the area of pension reform. Today I am talking about public pensions. Along with this provision, the law should be satisfactory for many decades because it brings all Canadians automatically above the poverty line. However, it is only above the poverty line. It is normal that the Government would not do more, in a sense, because Canadians should supplement that guaranteed tier of income, as it is often called, with their own private savings and, more important, with their company pensions. That is the image we should remember in Canada.

With Sweden we are the only countries in the world with decent universal public pensions. However, with the United States we are the worst countries of the industrialized world for not having private pensions. Approximately 55 per cent of Canadian workers, most of whom are women in the workforce, have no company pension. The others have pensions which are not portable, which do not have survivors' benefits, and which are not indexed in any way, shape or form to the cost of living. That is what I think should be the next step. We should put our own house in order in terms of Canada Pension Plan reforms which cannot be made without the agreement of a majority of the provinces with two-thirds of the population. Therefore, the Minister of Finance and myself are commencing discussions with the provinces toward that end. The best indicator of how good it is to live in a country is the way it treats its seniors, and I think every Member agrees with that.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   OLD AGE SECURITY ACT
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June 4, 1984

Hon. Monique Begin (Minister of National Health and Welfare) moved

that Bill C-40, an Act to amend the Old Age Security Act, be read the second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Health, Welfare and Social Affairs.

She said: Mr. Speaker, let me say, first of all, that I certainly appreciate the healthy applause rising up from the Opposition benches. This augurs well for the debate on this Bill! I assume that Members will vote unanimously in favour of what will probably be the last Bill we shall be proposing in support of the Guaranteed Income Supplement, because once this Bill is passed, from then on all senior citizens will necessarily be above the poverty line.

As you know, Mr. Speaker, Bill C-40 is basically focused on adding, in two slices, a full $50 a month, on top of the usual indexation, to what we call in the jargon "single pensioners" receiving the supplement. That means hundreds of thousands of seniors who are widows, widowers, single, separated, divorced and so on, who have no means or very little income other than what we call the "public pensions".

That is what this Bill is intended to do. However, we took the opportunity-and I am really confident that we will obtain the support of all Hon. Members of this House-to make other changes which will improve the pension system at the same time. These are small changes affecting perhaps 3,000 or even as few as 50 people a year. These are Canadians who for some technical reason fall between two chairs when it comes to the guaranteed income supplement. This, in a way, is a means to an end, and it is a happy end because it is the end to a very unhappy situation.

Some seniors, because of the limitations of, I suppose, the social sciences in preceding decades, still suffer a lot by not having a basic income guaranteed to them. Let me explain. In Canada, as in many other countries, I suppose-I would not know for sure until I researched the question-when we established the pension the concept was that a person who was

alone, for whatever reason, would receive half of what a couple receives. However, because of studies of family budgets and so on we now know that to live alone costs more than 50 per cent of a couple's needs. For example, the basic one-bedroom apartment, hydro and telephone will cost the same for a person alone as for a couple. Therefore, many groups-and in all fairness we should refer to them right now in this House-such as the Royal Commission on the Status of Pensions in Ontario, the Canadian Council on Social Development, the Senate Committee on Poverty and, I believe, the National Council on Welfare, have advocated that pensioners living alone and in need receive 60 per cent or a little more-which is what they are going to receive-of the budget of a couple.

That is why-and I do not say it in apology but in explanation-the couples who receive the supplement will not at this time receive a special increase. They will receive their usual indexation in July, next month. It is those, however, who are single and receive the supplement who will receive an additional $25 a month starting with their July cheque, and another additional $25 in their monthly cheques beginning in December. That, in a nutshell, is the purpose of this Bill.

I should mention that this increase will also be provided to widowed spouse's allowance recipients. Whatever their age or status, if they become widowed and they receive the spouse's allowance, which means they are younger than 65, which also means they are automatically in need, they will get the full $50 as well. In that way we are correcting what I would call a mistake of the past, of which I myself did not know. [Translation]

At this point I would like to say, Mr. Speaker, and I think it is very important, that my colleague, the Hon. Member from Montreal-Sainte-Marie (Mr. Malepart), is to be commended for having brought this problem to the attention of the Government. When individuals receiving the spouse's allowance are widowed-and in most cases they are women-they do not receive the special increase for single persons because of a technicality in the Act. However, they are single, to all intents and purposes.

We are therefore correcting this, so that all widowed spouse allowance recipients will now receive the additional $50 provided in Bill C-40.1 think this is extremely important. [English]

I will make the point rapidly that many people who get this $50 are women. Unfortunately I do not have in my notes the exact percentage, but it is a majority and quite a high percentage. It reflects the make-up of society. The Hon. Member for

June 4, 1984

Old Age Security Act

Kingston and the Islands (Miss MacDonald), even if she is not always very nice to me when she speaks in this House, has joined forces with many of us to obtain changes in the pension system for homemakers. They raised the children, did unpaid voluntary work, or worked in the service industry or perhaps the small business enterprise of their husband, father or members of their family. They often had to work to help the family make ends meet without pay or with small pay and no private pension.

I also want to bring to the attention of Canadians that the group forming what we call the GIS pensioners, those who receive the supplement, are people in need. If they were younger than 65 they would be on welfare. We should not hide that fact from ourselves. We call it a supplement and there is no stigma attached to it, which I am very proud of. These people are in need and this Bill is not providing a luxury for them, it is a necessity.

To come back to this point of information, which I think should be shocking and shaking us all towards pension reform, the fact is that 235,000 single-rate pensioners in Canada have to receive the full supplement to the basic old age pension. That means they have absolutely nothing else in the way of income to live on during their old age. This is quite shocking for any country. It is dangerous as well because it means that a great number of Canadians, when they reach the so-called official age of retirement, will suffer quite a substantial fall in their standard of living. They may have their home paid for, especially in small towns or in rural Canada. However, in a city such as Montreal where 80 per cent of the people are tenants, they will not enjoy that benefit. That is a very worrying situation for the future and we want to address it.

Before moving to my next point I will explain something. The so-called single pensioners who get the supplement, even if only a partial supplement, will get the full additional $50, twice $25. People should know that. We are broadening the base of those who will get the supplement. There are those in the grey area of being very close to the poverty line. We are increasing the base. Our departmental estimates indicate that 25,000 old age pensioners who are not receiving any supplement will start to qualify immediately for a small supplement. They should check with my numerous offices all over the country and their local MPs to see whether they will qualify. These people have very little income and should apply.

Recognizing that single GIS pensioners are in need of better financial assistance was very important but in a way was not new. I will refer to the task force of parliamentarians of the three Parties who participated in what is now called the great pension debate. The task force on pension reform which studied the reform of private pensions also studied all pensions, including the two public pensions. For these GIS pensioners the task force recommended a special top-up benefit of $102 per month taxed back at 100 per cent in the lowest income group. Many Members and many Canadians think that would have been much better. However, it would have totally

changed the system. It would have been better for some but it would have eliminated a lot of GIS pensioners from receiving the supplement.

Let me explain why I did not recommend that to the Government. The reason is that the $102 per month with a tax back rate of 100 per cent would have given more money immediately to those who have nothing but the GIS. However, any pensioners receiving any money from another source would have that amount deducted from their GIS. That is a problem. As a Minister I could not talk with the task force on pension reform because it must operate independently, but I think it is fair that I explain today to the House and my colleagues why I did not recommend that to the Government.

Our system has two advantages which would have been lost by the recommendation of the task force report. One advantage of our present system is that it is proportionately adapted to each dollar of additional income from other sources. It is a fine graduation from those who receive the full OAS and the GIS with no other income to those with limited other income, and finally to those who have other income but not enough to match what is missing by even $10 a month and takes them over the poverty line. There is no disruption in this system; it is a scale that is finely tuned to the realities.

The second advantage is that we only take back 50 per cent of other income and thereby leave them 50 cents on the dollar. This means that we have built in within the public pension system in Canada incentives for people to build up their own savings. I do not know if I am turning into a capitalist, I do not think so, but I believe it is sacrosanct to build in and keep incentives for Canadians to save toward their older days.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   OLD AGE SECURITY ACT
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