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How GIS is Discussed in the House of Commons

The following is from the index of Hansard, so you can follow the links below or review the parts I have copied which are below…

Guaranteed Income Supplement

Eligible recipients, not receiving, corrective measures: 6856 (107:1630), 7929-33 (126:1005-35),
7938 (126:1145-50), 8276 (132:1015)

o.q.: 6375-6 (98:1150-5), 6625 (103:1155), 7840 (124:1455-500), 7899-900 (125:1435-40), 8007-8 (127:1130-5), 8062 (128:1435), 8128 (129:1450), 8872 (142:1155), 9259 (149:1435)

Retroactive payment, 11 month limit, full retroactivity, Human Resources Development and Status of Persons with Disabilities Standing Committee, recommendations: 7931-2 (126:1020)

o.q.: 7962 (126:1435-40), 8285-6 (132:1120-5)

S.O. 31: 9094 (146:1405)

See also Human Resources Development and Status of Persons with Disabilities Standing Committee--Reports, Sixth (The Guaranteed Income Supplement: The Duty to Reach All); Women--Senior citizens; Senior citizens--Pension income.

Guaranteed Income Supplement

Mr. Marcel Gagnon (Champlain, BQ): Mr. Speaker, seniors are being treated very unfairly by the federal government, which is refusing to consider full retroactive payment for those entitled to the guaranteed income supplement and who have not had it, because the process has proven inaccessible to them.

Since the supreme court permits cross-referencing of data to recover money illegally collected from employment insurance, should the government not consider making the same effort to locate the seniors to whom it owes money and give it to them, since this money belongs to them?

[English]

Hon. Jane Stewart (Minister of Human Resources Development, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am sure the hon. member would agree with me that the most important thing here is to ensure that Canadian seniors who are eligible for the guaranteed income supplement have access to it.

As he points out, the Minister of National Revenue and I will be working together to use the tax system and the information there to make sure that Canadian seniors who need this important piece of the pension structure have access to it.

[Translation]

Mr. Marcel Gagnon (Champlain, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the government has owed them this money for eight years.

When it comes to income tax, the government has no hesitation in applying full retroactivity in order to recover money owing it. Why then not apply the same principle when it is the one owing money to seniors? Why is the government treating seniors so unfairly?

[English]

Hon. Jane Stewart (Minister of Human Resources Development, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I reiterate for the hon. member that parts of the guaranteed income supplement that ensure there is retroactivity are consistent with other pension programs, whether it be the CPP or QPP. This approach has been part of this undertaking since the guaranteed income supplement was introduced 30 years ago.

We know full well that the pension structures here in Canada are extraordinarily important to Canadian seniors. They have made a difference in their levels of poverty by reducing them. Our work is to ensure that Canadian seniors know about these programs and have full access to them.

* * *

Hon. Jane Stewart (Minister of Human Resources Development, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I applaud and recognize the hon. member's interest in this very important Canadian program. The guaranteed income supplement is there to help low income seniors with resource issues that they may be facing.

In support of ensuring that those who are eligible for the program indeed have access to it, starting in February we will begin a direct mailing campaign to seniors and will supply them with pre-filled application forms. It is expected that the majority of these seniors will simply have to sign and return the form to get the guaranteed income supplement.

Hon. Jane Stewart (Minister of Human Resources Development, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as I have said many times in the House, the guaranteed income supplement is an important part of the overarching Canadian pension system. I am working with my colleague, the Minister of National Revenue, to ensure that all Canadians who are eligible for that piece of the program know about it.

The hon. member will be interested to know that according to Statistics Canada the incidence of low income among persons aged 65 and over declined from 20.8% in 1980 to 8.9% in 1991. The pension system is there. It is structured to help Canadian seniors.

Hon. Jane Stewart (Minister of Human Resources Development, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I applaud and recognize the hon. member's interest in this very important Canadian program. The guaranteed income supplement is there to help low income seniors with resource issues that they may be facing.

In support of ensuring that those who are eligible for the program indeed have access to it, starting in February we will begin a direct mailing campaign to seniors and will supply them with pre-filled application forms. It is expected that the majority of these seniors will simply have to sign and return the form to get the guaranteed income supplement.

Hon. Jane Stewart (Minister of Human Resources Development, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as I have said many times in the House, the government's primary objective is to ensure that those who are eligible for the guaranteed income supplement actually receive it. As the hon. member points out in that regard, we are sending seniors a simplified application form to make it easier for them to apply. This will touch about 100,000 seniors.

We are also extending our communication and outreach efforts to reach vulnerable groups. In this regard, the role of members of parliament is tremendously important and I would like to congratulate the member for Frontenac--Mégantic for his particular style of outreach in his community. He knows his cities well and is ensuring that seniors get their benefits.

Hon. Jane Stewart (Minister of Human Resources Development, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member knows that as part of the guaranteed income supplement program there is already retroactivity built into the structure. He might also be interested to know that, particularly with regard to Quebec, we have contacted directly over 600,000 clients to explain both the old age security and the guaranteed income supplement. We have contacted 2,000 service providers and seniors groups to help us with our endeavours here.

Hon. Jane Stewart (Minister of Human Resources Development, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, with regard to the guaranteed income supplement, there is already a retroactive component to the legislation. The hon. member will know that it is the same retroactive principle that applies for the Canada pension plan.

I understand that in its work the standing committee reviewed the program. As I said before, I am looking forward to reviewing the recommendations of the committee and responding to them in due course.

Hon. Jane Stewart (Minister of Human Resources Development, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, when it comes to the guaranteed income supplement, the most important thing we must do is ensure that Canadian seniors are aware that the program exists.

One of the key priorities for us, and indeed for the committee, is to take all opportunities, in forms of outreach, to make sure Canadian seniors who are eligible for the guaranteed income supplement have access to it.

I would welcome recommendations and suggestions from the hon. member as to what organizations in his own community we should work with to ensure that seniors in his region know about the guaranteed income supplement.

Hon. Jane Stewart (Minister of Human Resources Development, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, one of the most remarkable achievements in Canadian social policy in recent decades has been the substantial reduction in poverty among seniors.

According to Statistics Canada, the incidence of low income among persons aged 65 and over declined from 20.8% in 1980 to 8.2% in 1999.

Without question, that has a lot to do with programs like the guaranteed income support system. From my point of view I think the best thing we can do together is ensure that all citizens know about the guaranteed income supplement, have access to the information and, if they are eligible, receive those benefits.

[Translation]

Mr. Michel Gauthier (Roberval, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the minister's figures are small consolation for the 300,000 seniors who are living under the poverty line and who are listening to us. These figures will not put food on their table.

I am asking the government, and more specifically the minister, to show some compassion. I am asking her to follow up on this request and to treat seniors fairly. This is what they expect from their government, and this is what the opposition is demanding from the government.

[English]

Hon. Jane Stewart (Minister of Human Resources Development, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, indeed Canadian seniors expect justice and indeed Canadian seniors appreciate the program of pension structures in place to support them.

The job here is to make sure those benefits that are so important are known to seniors.

I would point out that as a result of the programs we, myself along with my colleague, the minister of revenue, are putting in place, the Ontario Coalition of Senior Citizens' Organization and St. Christopher House are all agreeing that our strategies are the correct ones, and they will help us get the news out to Canadian seniors. I would ask the hon. member to join us in that undertaking.

Mr. Marcel Gagnon (Champlain, BQ): Mr. Speaker, many seniors listen to our debates in the House. They do not understand why the Liberal government is refusing, despite what everyone would expect, to apologize to those who were deprived of their due and, worse, why it is refusing to pay them the full retroactive amount they are owed.

The federal government is cross referencing information in order to track down unemployed workers who leave the country or anyone who owes it taxes.

How is it that the government is refusing to do the same in order to track down those seniors—
The Speaker: The hon. Minister of Human Resources Development.

[English]

Hon. Jane Stewart (Minister of Human Resources Development, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, there are two important things. The guaranteed income supplement has been a part of the pension structure for the last 30 years and since the very beginning there has been a retroactivity provision. This provision is the same provision, or in some cases better, as the provisions that are provided in the Canada pension plan and the Quebec pension plan.

We do want to support and serve Canadian seniors well and I believe with the structures we have in place we are doing just that.

[Translation]

Mr. Marcel Gagnon (Champlain, BQ): Mr. Speaker, we do not understand the federal government's attitude.

Seniors do not understand the government's stubborn insistence on denying them their rights either.

Does the government not think this is a good time to do the right thing by seniors, and drop its present petty-minded attitude?

[English]

Hon. Jane Stewart (Minister of Human Resources Development, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, perhaps the hon. member would be interested to know that in Quebec alone my department's outreach workers have directly contacted 600,000 clients to explain old age security and guaranteed income supplement.

He would be interested to know that in Quebec alone 2,000 service providers and seniors' groups are working with us to get the news out about these important pension programs. I would expect that the hon. member's constituents would ask him and want him to join us in that constructive endeavour.

Richard Shillington

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