Lorraine Michael Question Period (05.02.2012)

MR. SPEAKER: The Leader of the Third Party.

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills said she was not aware of any penalty low income recipients who applied for CPP at the age of sixty would face if they wanted to take advantage of the new rules by rescinding the CPP application they were forced into making. There is, in fact, a penalty, Mr. Speaker; people have only a six month window to opt out of CPP after they make application at the age of sixty. As well, they have to pay back any money they received during that time.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the minister: Did she not study the potential implications of the new regime they have put in place and plan for such a contingency?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, this government, as part of our Budget process and part of our Poverty Reduction Strategy, has developed a policy that people who are receiving Income Support will no longer have to apply for CPP when they turn sixty. Mr. Speaker, what that means is that on a go-forward basis people who collect their CPP when they turn sixty-five as opposed to sixty will have 30 per cent more of their pension, their CPP, as they retire.

This is a penalty that was imposed on people when they applied for Income Support, and based on our Poverty Reduction Strategy, to try to meet the needs of people between sixty and sixty-five, and into their older years, Mr. Speaker, we felt that they would no longer be required to apply for their CPP. However, it will still be their decision if they wish to do so.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Third Party.

MS MICHAEL: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

The minister said yesterday that if there were a penalty creating financial hardship for individuals wanting to rescind their CPP benefits until they reach the age of sixty-five, they could expect her and her department to do due diligence in assisting them.

Mr. Speaker, what is the minister’s plan for helping people face the financial hardship that would be caused by the payback that is part of the federal procedure?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, the Department of Advanced Education and Skills, and in our Income Support Program, do due diligence every single day when we deal with individuals who receive Income Support. A lot of times there are anomalies, situations, or circumstances that nobody has planned for, and they have to deal with their case workers on a case-by-case basis to deal with these issues.

Mr. Speaker, this policy we brought in is to address people who are sixty years of age and older who no longer will have to, as a requirement of receiving their Income Support, apply for their CPP when they turn sixty. Mr. Speaker, this policy we felt would address poverty issues for people in their older years, and something I am sure benefits Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. It is also an investment of $500,000 that we have put into our Poverty Reduction Strategy to assist these people, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Third Party.

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Cold comfort, Mr. Speaker, cold comfort.

Mr. Speaker, all legislatures in Canada have permanent, all-party standing committees that deal with serious public issues. Newfoundland and Labrador does not. Standing committees through public sessions and other consultation give people the opportunity to have input on policy changes and legislation, whether it be something like Muskrat Falls or changes to incomes assistance policies. Consultation is a basic component of democracy in every other legislature in Canada.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Minister of Natural Resources: When will this government begin the process to bring the democracy of this House of Assembly up to a national standard?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Natural Resources.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I say to the member, the Leader of the Third Party, when will her questions come up to a national standard, Mr. Speaker?

Mr. Speaker, we have committees in place, Standing Committees in this House. We have the Resource Committee, we have the Social Services Committee, and we have Government Services Committee. They meet, they go through the Estimates, Mr. Speaker, and they deal with these issues. There is the House Management Committee that governs the House. Then, Mr. Speaker, in our Cabinet procedures we have Treasury Board, we have Social Policy, we have Economic Policy Committees. Those are the Committees where Cabinet papers and Cabinet decisions are looked at, Mr. Speaker. For example, if there is going to be an expenditure of money it goes to Treasury Board and/or Economic Policy, Mr. Speaker.

We have those Committees. They inform the government process. They make recommendations and Cabinet then considers those recommendations.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Third Party.

MS MICHAEL: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, Standing Committees also give our Parties in the House of Assembly time to examine and discuss legislation before it is presented for debate. Standing Committees across the country, all-party Standing Committees across the country regularly seek input from people about draft legislation and policy changes through public sessions and real consultation. This government only gives Opposition MHAs a cursory look at bills before they are presented to the House.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Minister of Natural Resources: When will government catch up to the basic democracy that other provinces have and let our all-party Standing Committees do what they are supposed to do?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Natural Resources.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, we have been here in the House since March 5. A number of bills have come before this House. There are various stages, Mr. Speaker, with the bill. After second reading there is debate, and that debate can go on forever, Mr. Speaker, as long as the Opposition want it to go on, so there are lots of opportunity for discussion, but the main process, Mr. Speaker, in determining government policy, having been elected as the government in an election that took place in October of last year, Mr. Speaker, is to determine where we are heading as a government. As I indicated, we have main committees that look at all of our policies and our economic spending.

Mr. Speaker, the members opposite are quite welcome to form coalitions and to have whatever policies they want. We see, Mr. Speaker, that the Member for St. John’s North had a travelling sideshow earlier this year, and they can all do the same.

Associated Caucus Members: 

Share this page: