THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON SOCIAL AFFAIRS, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
OTTAWA, Monday, February 28, 2022
The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology met with videoconference this day at 2 p.m. [ET] to study Bill C-12, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act (Guaranteed Income Supplement).
Senator Ratna Omidvar (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Honourable senators, my name is Ratna Omidvar, a senator from Ontario and chair of this committee.
We are continuing our review of Bill C-12, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act (Guaranteed Income Supplement). I would like to introduce our first witnesses. From the Canadian Association of Retired Persons, we have Mr. Bill VanGorder, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Policy Officer; from CanAge, Laura Tamblyn Watts, President and Chief Executive Officer; and Diana Cable, Director of Policy and Research.
I invite Mr. VanGorder to make his presentation, followed by Ms. Tamblyn Watts. Please keep to your allocated time of five minutes, because we do want to make sure we have enough time for questions and answers. Thank you very much.
Bill VanGorder, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Policy Officer, Canadian Association of Retired Persons: Thank you for this opportunity to speak with you today on this important bill. Although our head office is in Toronto, I’m speaking to you from Halifax, Nova Scotia, and I acknowledge that I am in Mi’kma’ki, the traditional lands of the Mi’kmaq people.
The Canadian Association of Retired Persons, or CARP, is a national, non-partisan, non-profit organization that advocates for financial security and improved health care for Canadians as they age. With over 330,000 paying members in 27 chapters across Canada, CARP plays an active role in the creation of policy and legislation that impacts older Canadians. CARP advocates on behalf of older Canadians with all levels of government and collaborates with other organizations on issues such as health, ageism, housing, as well as financial issues. CARP is very pleased today that all the parties have said they support this bill and acknowledge that it’s urgent and that it be passed this week.
We survey our members on a regular basis — we do it monthly or even more often — and we now find that financial security is more worrisome than health issues. One of the top two concerns of 82% of our members is the fear they will outlive their money.
Seniors face huge challenges just making ends meet. When your cheque is less than you expected, it’s crushing. If you live on a fixed income, as do 70% of older Canadians, the cost of living affects you negatively. This repayment is much needed, but does not, as the government has stated, fully compensate those seniors because they were shortchanged. They’ve been without their money for almost a year.
The vast majority of Canadian seniors who qualify for Guaranteed Income Supplement, or GIS, do receive it. However, a portion of low-income seniors are missing out on benefits to which they are entitled simply because they haven’t applied for them. To promise a one-time payment now for an estimated 185,000 older Canadians who were affected is much too late. CARP first brought this to the attention of government officials in August 2020. The response we got was simply to repeat the current law.
Seniors are angry. At CARP’s national congress, almost 1,000 participants from across the country showed they were very angry and disappointed. They felt they were promised much by all parties and little has been delivered. They felt they were treated much more poorly than other sectors.
Therefore, CARP’s recommendations are these: Boost Old Age Security, or OAS, by 10% for people 65 to 75, not just those over 75; increase the Canada Pension Plan survivor’s pension by 25% for those over 65; drop mandatory withdrawals by eliminating the Registered Retirement Income Funds, or RRIFs withdrawals so seniors don’t deplete their nest eggs; protect pension investment with insurance policies that ensure 100% of pension liabilities and make the Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments, or OBSI, the single, unified binding resolution body for banking and investments; protect seniors by amending the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act by giving pensioners super-priority status; make GIS more robust by instituting a system like the one in the U.K. where individuals are not required to fill out their own income tax return. At a minimum, this should apply to low-income wage earners and pensioners; and finally, create a more appropriate estimation of the cost of living.
The current system fails seniors. In a year like this year when inflation is seen to be anywhere from 5% to 7%, the OAS pension amounts and supplements rose only 1.1%, supposedly based on the cost of living. Remove the inequities in support funding. The adequacy of supporting older Canadians shouldn’t depend on your postal code. There are inequities across the country that must be addressed.
We also need faster action. If you’re 80 years old and people tell you things will be better in three or four years, that just doesn’t wash. Better communication is needed, remembering that many seniors don’t use email, websites and social media. We’ve brought this to the attention of the Ministry of Seniors, and there has been an improvement.
I’ll stop there to stay within the limits of my time, but I look forward to your questions.
The Chair: Thank you so much, Mr. VanGorder.
Laura Tamblyn Watts, President and Chief Executive Officer, CanAge: Good afternoon, senators, and thank you so much for the opportunity to address you today. I am the CEO of CanAge, Canada’s national seniors’ advocacy organization. We are pan-Canadian, non-partisan and not for profit. We work to advance the rights and well-being of Canadians as we age and to ensure that older Canadians live vibrant and connected lives. As of this year, CanAge is now the largest seniors’ distribution and membership network in the country.
With me today is Diana Cable, Director of Policy and Research. We will divide our time today.
We are delighted to provide our support for the amendments to Bill C-12, which are enacted to ensure that seniors qualify for GIS, the Guaranteed Income Supplement, ensuring that some of our most financially vulnerable seniors are able to keep their financial position above water. We are not in favour of including the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, known as CERB or other benefits which then cut back or negatively affect GIS. We have been at the forefront of this issue. From the beginning, we consistently raised the issue of conflict between GIS and CERB with government, and we started an advocacy campaign, answering the emails and phone calls of countless older people. We created a writing campaign to raise awareness, and we supported policy-makers, including our former and current Minister of Seniors, addressing the urgent needs that the conflict between CERB and GIS has created.
That conflict doesn’t just cause people not to have the money that they need and to face homelessness or other challenges, but it also causes down-flow disqualifications for other municipal or local organization services which use the GIS cut-off as a way of deciding whether services will be offered. So it’s not just a financial matter from the federal government — although it certainly is — but it is also a down-flow problem because organizations do use the GIS level as a cut-off.
We have gathered more than 50 stories from our members across the country about this confusion. Here are some of the messages that we have received.
Diana Cable, Director of Policy and Research, CanAge: We have been told:
I am a 70-year-old self-employed senior who has asked all the right questions to CRA and accountants, paid taxes, et cetera. I was never ever told GIS would be taken if I took CRB to cover my lost employment, which cost me dearly. Help. Evictions are now.
I have many friends who are over 70 and have been evicted and are sleeping in their cars because of this screw-up. Winter with no shelter is a death sentence for tens of thousands who have been cut off through no fault of their own. This is very scary and truly insane. How is this possible in Canada?
I had my monthly income drop below the cost of my rent. I know I am one of many, but I think it is unfair. And if CRA had let it be known when I first applied for CERB, I would not have applied for it. Now I face homelessness. Is there nowhere I can go for help?
I’m nearing crisis mode here. Going to have to succumb to selling my car, selling furniture, selling personal effects just to make it. Kind of disheartening that if you google “GIS Claw-back” there has been no new developments and no activity since the announcement itself. I find it quite baffling. I amongst many are waiting for answers, and tired of checking our bank accounts every morning.
This is the last one we would like to share today:
I am a senior who lost my GIS after collecting CERB. . . . I was working up until COVID . . . . I now find myself unable to find work, and my GIS has been taken away, which leaves me $622.56 on OAS and $395.74 on CPP. I don’t know where to turn for help, I even tried welfare, to no avail. Any advice you can give me would be greatly appreciated. I don’t know what I am going to do. Do you know if GIS will be reinstated before next August? I can’t bear the thought of ending up homeless at 68 years old.
Back to you, Laura.
Ms. Tamblyn Watts: However, while we are strongly in support of this change to allow people affected by GIS cutbacks and conflicts with CERB to have a pocket of funds to apply for on an emergency basis and then have the dollar-for-dollar refund automatically in May, we need to ensure that we address other issues.
First, some people took CERB because they did not understand how it conflicted with GIS. That is a failure of government, and we can’t let that happen again, albeit in pandemic circumstances.
Second, some people took CERB because, for the first time, they were lifted up to essentially a minimum standard of living. This amount worked for them; the GIS amount did not. We need to understand that this is a key issue of inadequate public pensions.
Last, some people took CERB because they did not have the luxury of turning it down — because their lives were changed forever by COVID, and this is not going to end any time soon.
Senators, austerity in public programs is coming. We know that the poorest and most financially vulnerable will suffer most. We need to make sure that public pensions, like GIS, Old Age Security and Canada Pension Plan, are increased to match the Consumer Price Index and upcoming inflation. Thank you for the opportunity to address you today. Ms. Cable and I are delighted to take your questions.
The Chair: Thank you so much to the witnesses for your excellent presentations and for being respectful of our time. We will now move to questions.
Senator Bovey: I would like to thank our witnesses. I have to say your stories were compelling and reflect the stories that I’m hearing in my community, both from people I know and people I have not known before.
I would like to ask the three witnesses this. We know that this bill was passed unanimously in the House of Commons. We know it affects about 185,000 senior Canadians, most of whom are over 80 years old, most of whom are single or widowed, at higher rates for women than for men. You’ve told us some of the experiences of the clawback.
My question is really simple, I hope. What would the effect be if for any reason this bill is not passed this week? What would be the effect if this bill is passed this week?
Mr. VanGorder: It would be even more disastrous than it has already been. As you’ve heard from our reports and the responses from our members, this had a debilitating effect on many, many low-income people. They’ve been promised it. They’ve been promised it for months now. They’re counting on it. If it doesn’t happen, many of them, like the last one we heard about, will be out on the street.
Ms. Tamblyn Watts: We have members writing to us almost on a daily basis, saying: It’s the beginning of the month; I don’t know if I can stay in my home. It is the beginning of the month; I don’t know if I can pay my utility bills. It is the beginning of the month; I have medications, and I have to choose whether I pay for those or whether I will have heat this month. It is the beginning of the month; I don’t know how I will cope.
If we do pass this, there is an opportunity, albeit it’s been a long time coming, for these desperate seniors to have a fund to access, so they don’t have to make those decisions. Thank you.
Senator Bovey: If it is passed, which I certainly hope it will be, you say it will give an opportunity. Will it give a sufficient opportunity to begin to address some of these other inequities in Canadian society?
Mr. VanGorder: No, it’s just catch-up. It’s not an improvement. So it will not. It shows us how desperate the situation is and what little income these older Canadians have, when this relatively small amount of money — I assume that some officials thought, when they first made this decision to take so long to change this, that somehow it wasn’t enough to matter. As you’ve heard, it does matter, and it’s only a beginning. Improvement is still really needed.
Ms. Tamblyn Watts: I will agree with Mr. VanGorder up to a point. I don’t think the government thought this was an amount that didn’t matter. In our conversations with the Ministry of Finance, they simply didn’t think of it. Once they realized the effect of it, they were horrified, but then they had to try to figure that out. We certainly had lots of conversations in that way — that they didn’t think about it. They certainly didn’t think about the downflow effect of municipalities and other organizations who use GIS as a cut-off. They didn’t look at that effect.
What I would offer is, no, of course, it doesn’t. On top of that, they should be getting interest on the money that was withheld. On top of that, they should be looking at the damages caused and the additional funds they’ve had to lay out to make ends meet. Many had to borrow from very high-lending payday lends or other kinds of lending, and that money is nowhere near. Does it begin to approach it? No. But it is better than leaving it unmatched.
Senator Bovey: I appreciate this. Thank you, Madam Chair.
Senator Patterson: I would like to thank you both for the presentations. Let me assure you, we all want to get this fixed. In fact, like you and your organizations, here in the Senate the need to deal with this problem — including getting the legislative drafting work done properly — has been brought to the attention of the government long before this date.
Mr. VanGorder, you said you brought this to the attention of the government in March of 2020, and all we got is the same act. CARP is a well-respected advocacy organization. I’d like to ask you and Ms. Tamblyn Watts for a little more detail because both organizations have been doing intense lobbying, communications and letter writing and — [Technical difficulties].
My question is to both witnesses. You’ve lobbied hard, and you’ve outlined that. How responsive has the ministry, the officials and the minister been to your intense lobbying efforts? I think we need to know a little bit more about that, please.
Ms. Tamblyn Watts: Thank you. Perhaps I will go first in this case. We raised the issue at the very beginning, and we have continued to raise this issue throughout all of this time. We have had meetings with government officials in the Ministry of Finance and with the federal government — the Minister of Seniors — on several occasions. We’ve had no trouble getting meetings, senator. What we had trouble with is getting action.
We also worked with some of the other parties in terms of the shadow ministers, and they helped to bring this up in the House of Commons on a number of occasions. We created a letter-writing campaign, senator. We created educational opportunities for other stakeholders who were not aware of this. We had webinars, and we made sure there was the letter-writing campaign both federally and to local MPPs and MLAs because some of the provincial governments needed to understand. The provincial governments use the GIS as a cut-off for some other programs as well. Senator, we could get meetings. We could not get action.
Mr. VanGorder: I would just add to that, senator — and by the way it was June 2020 when we first brought it to the attention of the government. At that time, they wrote to us and said they could confirm that the government is not clawing back anyone’s GIS arbitrarily and that all calculations or amounts paid are legislated by the Old Age Security Act, meaning the formula is set by law and cannot be changed on a whim. We were not happy with that answer and with calling it a whim in the face of what it was. We continued, as Ms. Tamblyn Watts said, to talk to government. Finally, last fall, in a discussion with the new Minister of Seniors, we were able to at least get a promise of some kind of action and then were totally disappointed to find that action wouldn’t happen until — at that point we were told — this coming June.
Ms. Tamblyn Watts: Just to follow on with that, I’m able to confirm that on August 13, we were able to get a formal letter back — and I can share that letter — that indicated that, depending on the number of requests received and their complexities, it was estimated it may take 12 months or more to process. They said that requests are processed on a case-by-case basis and in many cases will not result in a reinstatement or adjustment to the client’s payment amount and that requests for calculations are done by completing, et cetera — and then there are all kinds of other complex information. That was an inadequate response on every level.
Senator Patterson: Who gave that 12-month response? Who wrote that letter?
Ms. Tamblyn Watts: That letter was written on behalf of the former Minister of Seniors by Stephanie Muccilli, Director of Policy, Office of the Minister for Seniors.
Senator Patterson: Thank you.
Senator Poirier: Thank you to our three witnesses for being here this afternoon and for sharing the information and concerns that you have and also for all the outreach you’ve done over the last while.
I guess I want to go this way. The $742 million payment to the seniors is made under section 7 of the Department of Employment and Social Development Act. It grants the minister the ability to make a one-time grant without even needing to bring the issue before Parliament. This was the same section that was used to make two other COVID benefit payments: the one-time payment to the seniors in May 2020 and again in August 2021.
I mention this because it underscores that there is no reason why this payment could not have been announced a year ago and distributed to seniors in advance. Another option would have been to make multiple payments, perhaps every four months. Options like this were available to the government and would have alleviated significant hardship for seniors.
Were you aware of these facts, and do you have a comment on it? I pose that question to both groups.
Ms. Tamblyn Watts: We were aware of that. Thank you, senator. We did emphasize that there is the legislative ability to make payments immediately. Indeed, building on the senators’ options, we suggested it simply not count until pre-CERB dollars, so that things would be calculated in 2019 rather than in 2020, which is also, frankly, a very easy way of avoiding the future problem.
We find that there is no reason why this issue was not addressed and payments were not being made. What we’ve seen is that tens of thousands of people across this country — a very specific number that could be found — have enormous health, physical and safety effects because they were not able to get these payments made.
Senator Poirier: Thank you.
Mr. VanGorder: I can’t add anything to that. I agree. We knew, and that’s why we were so disturbed that there was not faster action on the issue. That’s why our members across the country feel that seniors are being ignored.
Senator Poirier: Thank you. I’m very supportive of this bill. From my understanding, so are the conservative senators. We will do everything we can to make sure this is passed quickly. However, the government seems to have placed a very low priority on this bill because it has once again been introduced in the legislation at the last minute, which requires it to be rushed through by senators again.
In your conversation with the government or officials about the need to address the problems with the reduced payments of the GIS, did the question arise of when this action would be taken? If so, what were you being told over the last two years? Do you have any insight into why it took so long to address this critical problem?
Mr. VanGorder: We certainly asked the question and were disturbed. We were told last November that it would be June. The minister’s office told me this in a phone call in November. We were very disturbed that it would take that long and, frankly, didn’t understand why they weren’t looking at some of the other alternatives to getting this money into the hands of seniors.
These are low-income people who need the money immediately. As I said in my presentation, getting it now is too late. Many of them are undergoing very difficult circumstances because they’ve been without the money. It will be 10 months for many of them.
Ms. Tamblyn Watts: Thank you. I would offer that it is not too late to help people in desperate need, but it came much later than it needed to. We knew what the scope of the problem was, and we were able to ask the government to make sure that they would run the numbers — easily found — between people who received GIS and those people who were receiving CERB. It was a simple way of running those statistics.
Once the number was found and we realized how significant the impact was going to be, we started calling out quickly and said on a number of occasions that this needs to end immediately and we also need to ensure that they are not having clawback provisions on an ongoing basis. What we did not get was a good answer.
We were told that May was as early as it could happen, so we were given no information as to why May was the only time that it could happen. In conversations, we pointed out that there were many options that didn’t require May, but we were given an answer that it was difficult to make the payments and that the mechanisms in order to make those payments required “a long time” to organize.
With respect, senators, I do not see why it was taking that long, but we are still grateful for the fact that the money is coming later than never.
Senator Cordy: Thank you for being here today. You’ve been very forthright in your comments, and that is what we have to hear and what all levels of government have to hear. No beating around the bush.
Mr. VanGorder, I’m from Dartmouth. You’re very famous in Nova Scotia, so it’s great to see you here.
Mr. VanGorder: As are you.
Senator Cordy: I’m not sure. Anyway, you have both stated that it’s urgent that this bill passes this week. That is not what I’m going to ask you in my question, because as someone said earlier, I will also be supporting this bill in hopes that it will pass this weekend so that seniors, who are indeed our most vulnerable — the ones who are receiving GIS are receiving GIS for a reason. They are very low-income seniors.
I really liked your comment, Mr. VanGorder, that we need faster action because if you are 80 and you are being told that something is going to take three or four years, well, that could, in fact, be a lifetime in these situations.
One of the things that we heard on Friday was that benefits like CERB that go to vulnerable populations should never, ever be taxable. I think you said that indirectly in some of your comments, but I wonder if you would reiterate it. Because I agree with you, and certainly anything that comes forward again, I will watch to see that those benefits are not taxable for those who are vulnerable. Because you are absolutely right: It is great to get one lump-sum payment for a year, but people in vulnerable situations can’t always wait for a year.
Mr. VanGorder: I think that what we have seen from the effects of COVID on many areas of our economy is that things were already bad, that low-income seniors were already suffering and COVID just exacerbated those problems.
The reason that I took your time today to list nine recommendations that CARP has is that we can’t just go back to the way we were before COVID and try to do the same things better. We have to aim higher. We have to do a much better job in all these areas of support of at-risk Canadians, older Canadians and make sure that this doesn’t happen again, and making sure that the conversations like we’re having today don’t stop with your vote later this week but carry on to insist that we improve the whole basis of the way we treat seniors.
Senator Kutcher: Thanks to the three of you for being here, and also tremendous thanks for the incredible, hard work that you do on behalf of seniors. It is not that far in my future, either, and so I thank you for everything. Not being from Dartmouth but from Halifax —
Senator Cordy: It is already here, Senator Kutcher.
Senator Kutcher: That’s how you feel, Senator Cordy.
I’m not famous like you and Senator Cordy, because I’m not from Dartmouth across the water there.
The recipients of GIS are people who are living in some of the most precarious situations in our country. All of us are frustrated. I hear the frustration in your voice in the incredible work that you’ve been doing pounding on doors and the doors not being opened, and when they are opened, there is no action. And you deserve to be incredibly frustrated.
I hear many of my colleagues are very frustrated because we keep seeing bills that aren’t coming to us in the shape that they should be coming to us. We’re frustrated, too. So we’re all frustrated. My concern is that we don’t take our frustrations out on the people living in this precarious state.
There has been some discussion about some technicalities around the bill and various issues. There may be a chance that the bill will not get done by March 4. If that happened, if the Senate didn’t move the bill ahead by March 4, what would you and seniors in Canada have to say to the senators if we were not to move the bill expeditiously to meet the March 4 deadline? What would you have to say to us?
Ms. Tamblyn Watts: Thank you, senator. Well, coming from Sandy Cove, Nova Scotia — apparently this is a theme today — down on the Digby Neck, I can tell you that about a third of the residents in our Digby Neck area are in low income, and it is a dire situation that is replicated across this country.
If we do not move forward on an urgent nature by March 4, we will see food not on the table, we will see bills not being paid and we will see those low-income seniors down on the Digby Neck and across this country suffer even more. With respect, as a lawyer, you can have amendments. The point here is to urgently move the money back to the people who need it most, in my respectful view, senator.
Mr. VanGorder: I would only add to that, Senator Kutcher, that government has to find a way to move this money to the people who need it. And whatever happens — and certainly I hope it will be by this bill, so that nothing else will delay it. But, in addition, make sure that nothing like this ever happens again.
The Chair: Senator Kutcher, you have a few more minutes.
Senator Kutcher: I have no further questions. I think the witnesses have been very clear.
Senator Petitclerc: Thank you for your answers, to all of you. They have been very precise and direct. I support this bill and appreciate the clarity of your answers.
I do want to ask another question. If we take a step back from this bill and the programs, because we heard this on Friday, and I believe I heard it again today, and we hear it a lot in my province of Quebec right now. The question is: There’s one thing about what we do, and, of course, we should do more. I think we all agree with that. But I am interested in hearing from you on how we do it, how we communicate information that is so crucial to our seniors, and in this case, not providing the information the way that they want and should receive it, and the stress level that it can imply. Also, do we even connect with them when we do those programs in terms of how they want those programs to be delivered? I’m not even talking about amounts, but the way that we do it.
Mr. VanGorder, you did speak on that a little bit, but I would like to have that on the record for our committee.
Mr. VanGorder: Basically we’re asking that all governments go back to remembering where older Canadians get their information. They still get it from print, television, radio and from their friends and colleagues in the local community. So communicating through large organizations like ours and other organizations like church groups, social groups, where opinion leaders in the community can pass things on, in addition to using traditional media, is a much better way to get to older Canadians.
Now, I want to make sure I point out that in many cases older Canadians also get the information from their families. So that’s not to say we shouldn’t continue with using social media, because it is an information source. But as you get older, it is not the main source that an older Canadian has for information.
Ms. Tamblyn Watts: I want to build on that by pointing out that 86% of older Canadians do actively use the internet, and 68% of them use the internet every single day. We have seen huge leaps in internet use for information gathering, particularly around questions like these from people and family members. So it is important to remember that, yes, we do need a variety of modes. We need the seniors’ guides to come out in print. We need to make sure that organizations like CanAge and their colleagues are there to work with webinars. We also work through trusted sources like public library systems. All of those are important.
But part of the issue, senator, is that we don’t shape the information in a way that people can understand it. I challenge you to read the CRA. I am bilingual and have many university degrees, including a law degree, and I have a hard time understanding it myself. We ask people with limited literacy who do not have English or French as a first language, we ask people who are in dire financial straits who don’t have access to bookkeeping and accounting to try to figure out themselves what this means. That is why we at CanAge have championed automatic tax inclusion. We got some of those and we were happy for it, but that opportunity means that things are automatically filed.
Now we need to make sure our messaging — for which we at CanAge have excellent research and are happy to share with the senators about how messaging with older people works best. With respect, senator, we know very well that the way that we’re providing those messages are not clear. They are not evidence-based in a way that people can relate to it. They don’t speak to Acadian, Indigenous or marginalized communities, and they don’t speak to the experiences of people in rural and remote communities. We need to do a much better job on that. We would love to help and share some of that research around what we know works in both online sourcing as well as through community-based and print.
The Chair: Thank you. Senator Petitclerc, you have maybe one minute more. Do you have a second question?
Senator Petitclerc: No, I’m okay. Thank you once again. Those are very clear answers.
Senator Mégie: Thank you to our witnesses. Listening to you, I see that we really have no choice but to vote in favour of this bill, to at least correct the mistake that had been made. Beyond this mistake, once it is fixed, everything will come back to a stable level. In order for things to move forward and for us to have better conditions for our seniors, I think I heard Mr. VanGorder say that he had made recommendations to the government.
Do you have one or two of these recommendations that would move seniors forward in addition to just getting things right with the bill, measures that go beyond it?
Mr. VanGorder: Yes. Thank you for the question. It’s a very good question. One of them, certainly, is to make the GIS more robust. One way to do that would be to institute a system, as I said, like they have in the U.K., where individuals are not required to file their own income tax, because the government already has the information for those low-income people on their income. There are still people who are being left out, even from the GIS, because they don’t file a return and don’t know how to do it, don’t know when to do it. Those are for many of our most at-risk communities.
The other thing to do is to take a hard look at how we use the so-called cost-of-living system to upgrade the amounts. When the actual cost of living, especially for seniors, is much different than the amounts that they get from the government increase.
Finally, the inadequacies and inequities across the country by having the same amount of money paid to people no matter where they live just doesn’t work. That has to be firmly looked at and examined, too. We really think that it would take all nine of the recommendations that we made, and you will have in front of you later, before we even begin to solve this problem.
Ms. Tamblyn Watts: Senator, we need to make sure that we do a much better job of ensuring that the consumer price index matches public pensions.
We also need to make sure that the CERB amount is seen as a minimum standard. Of course, automatic filing of basic income statements is now allowed for low-income seniors. However, we agree that it should be extended. The low income threshold must also be included.
The Chair: Thank you so much.
Senator Moodie: I have a quick question for Mr. VanGorder. We have been talking about the systems that decide and define what adjustments need to occur — future adjustments, projections, forecasting — for seniors with the GIS. With the current volatility with the cost of living and rising costs, can you share with us your view on how calculations are made? You have already raised concern about the fact that many times there are gaps, but can you speak to the system for how this is done and what improvements should be considered?
Mr. VanGorder: I would like to be able to answer that very good question, senator, but it is beyond my personal scope of ability. I’m a graduate of political science, not a lawyer like Ms. Tamblyn Watts, and I wouldn’t want to pretend.
We do have experts within CARP who have talked in the past about the specifics, and we would do that again, but that is a complicated issue and, frankly, every time we talk to the tax department and finance department officials about this area, we find ourselves being covered in more information than we need. So thank you, but I don’t have a good answer to that question.
Ms. Tamblyn Watts: Senator, perhaps I could jump in and explain a little bit about the consumer price index. The CPI represents changes in prices that Canadian consumers experience. What it does is it measures the change by comparing over the course of time the cost of, essentially, a fixed basket of goods and services. We divide the CPI basket index in Canada into eight major components, and these are really important because I want to share with you that they will all be going up. They cost food, shelter, household operations, furnishings and equipment, clothing and footwear, transportation, health and personal care, recreation, education and reading, alcoholic beverages, and tobacco products and recreational cannabis. Then they are published in 10 jurisdictions, as well as Whitehorse, Yellowknife, Iqaluit and select cities.
So when we think about what it means to us to have a consumer price index, we have to look to see what is going to happen. This year, it is going to be a sharp increase, senator. Last year was also a sharp increase. A consumer price index is usually around 1.5%, and that’s considered very high. Last year, the consumer price index went up to 3.4% on an annual change, and this year, senator, we expect it to go up on a 5.1% increase. What the difference there is that, even with the GIS and some small increases, there’s no practical way that with a 5.1% consumer price index that the money that we have allocated to GIS can possibly govern the basics of those eight baskets. It is a real warning sign that the government needs to be listening to, and that is not even costing other forms of inflation. It’s only looking at the cost of those eight basket areas.
The Chair: Thank you.
Senator Bernard: Thank you to all of the witnesses who are appearing before us. I’m joining you today from my home in East Preston, Nova Scotia, Mi’kmaq territory.
You have very clearly highlighted the significance of passing this bill now. I certainly support that. You have highlighted the risk to older Canadians.
I have a couple of questions I want to ask, though. In your responses to various questions from my colleagues, you have highlighted the reality that this bill doesn’t go far enough in terms of addressing the significant needs, especially of those seniors who are so seriously marginalized.
Do your organizations bring an intersectional lens to your work when you are looking at issues pertaining to seniors? The other question I have is this: Have your organizations looked at guaranteed livable income as an option? Are these points that you have made to government?
Ms. Tamblyn Watts: Thank you, senator.
In both our principles and values, as well as in our statement of policy lenses, we talk intersectionality as a key component. We publish the policy lenses that we look through for each and every one of our policy pieces of work. So it is a critical piece.
We also work very diversely and intersectionally with other community-based and expert organizations.
The policy lenses that we look at require us to ensure that we’re working collaboratively. They include accessibility, neurodiversity and cognitive impairment, Indigenous rights and experiences, ethnocultural humility and diversity, sexual orientation and expression, immigration and newcomer status, gender and gender expression, access to justice, human and civil rights, and intersectionality, specifically life course, socio‑economic status, trauma-informed perspectives and frailty.
When it comes to the broad concession of livable income, we believe that CERB worked because it was an amount of money that people could live on, frankly. We engaged in a great social experiment. If we give people this amount of money, how will they do? Even in a pandemic, even in a time of unprecedented hardship, how will they do?
And I think we learned that guaranteed livable income is something that this government needs to look at, and it is something that all Canadians would benefit from.
The way we’ve been moving around the three-legged stool shows the downstream effect of inter-jurisdictional and intersexual discriminations, whether by postal code, ethnicity, culture or strain, simply leads to poverty in old age.
So yes, we do, senator. And I thank you very much for that question.
Mr. VanGorder: Yes, thank you, senator. And I would like any good organization of our type — I won’t outline the whole list of items, as Ms. Tamblyn Watts did — but I will say that the other thing that CARP does, as I believe you know, is to maintain very active local chapters. In your own province, our chapter leadership includes diversity and intersectionality in many of those areas. We seek to work right with the people on the ground, because — and you senators are not experiencing this anymore — but our main aim is to have our members speak to the people they elect or those who are running for office in their communities and tell them how they feel about what is needed in their community.
So yes, that is a key area for us.
Some kind of guaranteed income is something that we’ve continued to urge to be looked at. It is very complicated. It is something that we think needs to be examined by the best minds that the not-for-profit, the for-profit and the government have in place.
We’re pleased to see that it seems to be gaining more traction in recent years.
Senator Griffin: Fortunately, Senator Bernard asked one of my questions, which was about the guaranteed livable income. I support that. Prince Edward Island wants to be the leader in that, but the federal government is slow to come to the table to talk to us about it, but hopefully it will happen.
By the way, I am a CARP member and have been for a number of years.
Mr. VanGorder: Wonderful.
Senator Griffin: My other question is about seniors who did not apply for the CERB because they realized that it would mess up their GIS and OAS payments. They didn’t apply for CERB, so they are not in the situation and won’t be impacted favourably by Bill C-12. I guess I’d like to know what your reaction is to that. That is an inequity, I believe.
Mr. VanGorder: It is. It shows the kind of inequity we end up with when we quickly create measures and don’t think them through. It is a little disturbing to hear that some Finance Department officials may have indicated that they just didn’t think that this would be a problem. Frankly, that’s what they are paid for. I would expect them to look forward to those questions.
There’s no question that people who fall just on that line between the GIS and not getting it, the people who were left unemployed and the many seniors who were in service and other jobs — not low-income but not at high income either — were affected.
They told us — and part of this is just perception, and I may have told this to some of you when we spoke last time — but many of them perceive that they got $300 early in the pandemic, $200 more if they were really poor and another couple of hundred dollars last summer. That’s all they’ve got. They see other members of the community being considered over and over again. So their perception is that seniors really don’t matter to the people who are making decisions about their income, and on what and how they are going to be able to live.
The Chair: Thank you so much. We actually have time for a brief question from me, as well, which is a gift as the chair; I normally don’t get to do that.
My question is to you, Mr. VanGorder. You’ve both been very descriptive and compelling via your witness statements on the financial, mental and health trauma that may have been caused to the 185,000 GIS recipients who experienced the clawback.
You, Mr. VanGorder, suggested there should be a compensation fund to make good their damages incurred by taking loans or moving costs, et cetera. Have you made this proposal to the federal government, and how has it been received? Because that speaks directly to what we’re trying to address here.
Mr. VanGorder: Yes, we have made that suggestion, and it seems to have been heard well and not argued with. But there has been no action at all. Unfortunately, that’s what seniors are finding with government.
I am sorry to be so direct, but I think, at this point, we have to be direct. Their perception, once again, is that during elections and maybe immediately after, everybody pays attention, but when it comes to action, nothing happens. There’s a lot of talk, a lot of waiting, a lot of “we can’t do it now” and a lot of “it will happen in four or five years,” and that just doesn’t wash with our members.
The Chair: Thank you so much.
Witnesses, you have been excellent and very respectful of our time. I thank you very much.
Mr. VanGorder: Thank you very much.
Ms. Cable: Thank you.
The Chair: We are continuing our hearing on Bill C-12.
Our next witnesses are from Réseau FADOQ, Gisèle Tassé-Goodman, President; Danis Prud’homme, General Manager. From the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly, Graham Webb, Executive Director; Karen Steward, Lawyer. From the National Institute on Ageing, Michael Nicin, Executive Director, Ryerson University.
I invite Ms. Tassé-Goodman to begin her presentation, followed by Mr. Webb and Mr. Nicin. You need to be especially mindful of the time at this point because we have to finish on time. Please be compelling and as short as you can possibly be. Thank you.
Gisèle Tassé-Goodman, President, Réseau FADOQ: Thank you, Madam Chair.
Honourable senators, my name is Gisèle Tassé-Goodman, president of the Réseau FADOQ. I am accompanied by Danis Prud’homme, our organization’s general manager.
First of all, I would like to thank the members of the committee for this invitation.
The Réseau FADOQ is a group of people aged 50 and over which has some 550,000 members. In each of our political representations, we want to contribute to improving seniors’ quality of life. It is therefore with pleasure that we are here today to speak to you about Bill C-12, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act.
In March 2020, the federal government introduced the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). The goal was to ensure that those without income due to the pandemic could continue to support themselves.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many Guaranteed Income Supplement recipients still in the workforce lost their supplemental income. Since this employment income was essential for these people to survive, many applied for CERB. However, these workers suffered from an interaction between CERB and the GIS.
While it was clear that CERB was a taxable benefit, it was not clear that this would affect the amount of the Guaranteed Income Supplement received by a senior. Many recipients of this emergency benefit found in the summer of 2021 that the amount of GIS they would receive over the next year was reduced or even cut entirely.
This unfortunate interaction has been acknowledged by the Government of Canada. In its December 14 economic update, the government proposed to provide one-time payments to alleviate financial hardship for these people. Since then, no details have been provided as to the timing and details of this one-time payment.
On February 8, the federal Minister of Seniors tabled Bill C-12. The purpose of this bill is to ensure that emergency benefits paid as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic do not affect the calculation of GIS benefits payable in respect of any month after June 2022. In this way, the government will ensure that there is no interaction between the emergency programs and the GIS program in the future.
Nevertheless, Bill C-12 does not address the situation of GIS recipients who are currently penalized. Our organization can only denounce this failure. Some seniors are in a precarious financial situation that forces them to make agonizing choices when purchasing goods, equipment, food or medication.
We understand that the Government of Canada wanted to adopt the simplest possible amendment to the Old Age Security Act in order to ensure its swift passage. Nevertheless, some clarification of the one-time payments announced in December would have been desirable.
We would like to use the opportunity of our appearance before this committee to advocate for increased government support for seniors.
Currently, a person receiving only their Old Age Security pension and the maximum Guaranteed Income Supplement will have an annual income below the poverty line. The federal government must do more.
First, by increasing Old Age Security benefits by 10% for all seniors eligible for this program, not just those aged 75 and over. Second, by keeping its election promise to increase the Guaranteed Income Supplement.
The federal government must also take note of the experts who point out that Old Age Security will play an increasingly reduced role in the level of income replacement in retirement. The Old Age Security program is indexed to inflation, while wages generally increase at a higher rate than inflation. Therefore, the Réseau FADOQ recommends that the federal government review the method of indexing the Old Age Security program in order to take into account the trend in salaries.
I would like to thank the committee members for listening to us. Mr. Prud’homme will answer your questions.
Graham Webb, Executive Director, Advocacy Centre for the Elderly:
Good afternoon, Madam Chair and honourable senators. Thank you for inviting our legal clinic, the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly, ACE, to speak to you today.
We speak to you from territory that is covered by a dish with one spoon wampum belt, an agreement with the Haudenosaunee and the Anishinaabeg nations.
This acknowledgement is important because of the devastating effect that clawbacks to the Guaranteed Income Supplement, GIS, and the allowance has had on low-income and already marginalized communities, including Indigenous seniors.
I am Graham Webb, the Executive Director of ACE. I am joined by my colleague, Staff Litigation Lawyer, Karen Steward. We will be sharing our time.
ACE is an Ontario specialty legal aid clinic established in 1984. Our mission is to uphold the rights of low-income seniors by providing legal services that include direct client legal representation and advice, public legal education, law reform, community development and community organizing. We serve many seniors in the area of federal income-security programs, including the GIS. We have direct client experience in providing legal advice.
GIS is vital to ensure these low-income seniors can make ends meet. The sudden, unexpected reduction or elimination of GIS has had immediate and serious adverse effects, including the inability to pay for rent, hydro, medicine and food.
The loss of GIS disproportionately affects Indigenous and racialized seniors, as these seniors generally have lower retirement incomes — namely, less private pensions and retirement savings — and they are therefore more reliant on public pensions. In addition, there is a disproportionate effect on older seniors and on women.
I would ask my colleague Ms. Steward to please speak to our clinic experience.
Karen Steward, Lawyer, Advocacy Centre for the Elderly:
Beginning in July 2021, ACE received dozens of phone calls from low-income seniors who were shocked to discover that their GIS had been reduced or eliminated because they had accessed the Canada Emergency Response Benefit or the Canada Recovery Benefit. None of the seniors who we spoke with were aware that accepting CERB or CRB could reduce or eliminate their subsequent GIS payments.
One senior whom we spoke with was suffering from cancer and undergoing treatment and could no longer afford to buy fresh fruit and vegetables and unprocessed meat due to the elimination of her GIS payment. Another senior we spoke with was facing eviction for his inability to pay rent in Toronto.
The seniors we spoke with were often distressed. They felt cast aside and disrespected, and expressed a profound sense of the loss of their personal value and human dignity.
The appeal routes for when they have contacted us seeking a solution to reinstate their Guaranteed Income Supplement were unclear, arbitrary and lengthy. There may be different avenues depending on whether someone applied for CERB through Service Canada or the CRA. The criteria are complex, and there is no guarantee of success. A rapid and systemic response is what is required for this financial hardship.
On October 28, 2021, ACE endorsed an open letter to Minister Qualtrough from our colleagues at the Income Security Advocacy Centre, or ISAC — whom you heard from last Friday — asking for the immediate and retroactive exemption of CERB and CRB from the calculation for GIS benefits.
Between November 5, 2021, and February 22, 2022, we wrote four times to federal ministers, cc’d many other ministers and received only two replies, one of which was from the Minister of Seniors.
In the course of our correspondence, we asked how the one‑time payments would be calculated and when they would be paid. We asked that these payments be made quickly because of the impact by the loss of GIS or allowance, and that seniors are still facing dire financial circumstances.
On February 18, 2022, we heard from the Minister of Seniors, who replied to our November 5 letter, advising us of many of the steps the Government of Canada has taken to support seniors during the pandemic, but did not answer our questions about the one-time payments.
We heard from the Minister of Seniors that the one-time payments will be paid as soon as April 19, 2022, and that those in dire need should contact their MP’s office for help before then.
However, those in most need might not be aware that the one-time payment is coming or that they need to contact their MPs to get help more quickly. Those whose GIS or allowance has been reduced or eliminated for the past eight months should automatically be considered in dire financial need, as they are among the lowest income group in Canada.
Mr. Webb: We also support Bill C-12 because it would ensure a systematic response from July 2022 forward. CERB and CRB benefits were given to alleviate financial hardship during the pandemic and to ensure that money continued to flow through the Canadian economy.
Seniors who received CERB and CRB did what was expected of them. They spent the money they received to help support themselves during the pandemic. They should not now be punished by depriving them of critical and time-sensitive income support they need to continue to provide the necessities of life.
We therefore urge you to complete the consideration of this bill quickly and that senators pass it without delay.
The Chair: Thank you.
Mr. Nicin, the floor is yours.
Michael Nicin, Executive Director, National Institute on Ageing: Thank you to the Senate committee for inviting me to address Bill C-12, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act (Guaranteed Income Supplement). It’s an honour to be here and to lend my support and the support of the National Institute on Ageing, or NIA to the passing of Bill C-12.
The NIA is a Ryerson University think tank focused on the realities of Canada’s aging population. We are Canada’s only think tank dedicated to that goal of public policy solutions for an aging population.
We work at the intersections of health care, financial security and social well-being to research and advocate for solutions that promote the evolution and sustainability of Canadian systems and programs of support for older people. Our goal is to shift public policy and make Canada a place where aging is a triumph and not a burden.
We at the NIA fully support the speedy passage of Bill C-12. To not pass the bill quickly would add precarity and financial stress onto many older Canadians who have already been undeniably and disproportionately affected by the burden of COVID-19.
Every additional dollar in their pocket is that much more protection against the rising cost of living we are all increasingly experiencing. Seniors, of course, are much more likely to live on fixed incomes, and cannot absorb the rampant inflationary pressures we are experiencing. And while OAS, GIS, and CPP are inflation-adjusted, they aren’t keeping up with the true rising costs of food and now, increasingly, energy, as other speakers have noted.
The COVID-19 pandemic has left most Canadians worried about the financial security and well-being of their families today and in the future. The level of concern is particularly acute for Canadians close to retirement or already in retirement and especially for people who have been in retirement for some time and haven’t managed to keep up with inflation.
A public survey conducted by the NIA in fall 2021 showed that 75% of older adults report the pandemic has made them more concerned about their family’s financial security and well-being.
For those in retirement, up to the age of 69, 77% expressed worry about their financial well-being. That number is higher for older women, 8 in 10 of whom report feeling financial stress due to the pandemic.
We know from Statistics Canada that older people who live alone are particularly insecure financially. Approximately one in three Canadians over 65 who live alone live in poverty, with older women, again, being particularly hard hit in such cases.
And while we should not discount the experience of older Canadians who report feeling stressed financially, we know for certain that an increasing number of older Canadians are struggling to put food on the table.
One need not look further than food bank usage to see the effects of the financial strain. We work with a number of food banks in Canada to sort out the growing rate of older Canadians who are increasingly relying on food banks just to make ends meet and to fill their bellies at the end of a long day.
In 2021 alone, food bank use has increased by a staggering 36% among Ontario residents 65 and older. Since 2008, indicating that this has been a growing and chronic problem for some time, food bank usage among seniors has ballooned by 64%. An unacceptable number of older Canadians are now struggling with food insecurity and hunger, out of sight and out of mind for most of us.
The decline in employer pension programs, barriers to accumulating personal savings, the widening gap between the income provided through government pension programs and the rising cost of living are identified as driving factors for increased food bank usage and for the precarity of seniors’ financial scenarios.
For example, in 2021, food bank data in Ontario showed a 21% increase in visitors who report their primary income source is the Old Age Pension. So, on its own, as it is right now, even without the clawbacks in the missed money in the accounts, OAS and GIS are already stretched beyond many older people’s ability to afford the cost of living.
Rising inflation across the country is likely to further reduce the purchasing power of vulnerable older adults, as the costs of daily living continue to increase. The CPI, as others have noted, has increased by 5.1% over the past year, according to Statistics Canada. This puts it at an almost 40-year high, and no amount of tinkering around the edges could correct that level of imbalance.
Many older people live on the margins of financial security; that’s undeniable. They cannot simply absorb rising costs. In reality, this means they are making difficult personal trade-offs between buying enough nutritious food, turning up the heat to stay warm, or stretching out their medicines, to avoid refill co‑pay costs.
In conclusion, I want to note that the NIA public survey shows that Canadians are already stretched thin, even before the pandemic, certainly last year, and such measures that Bill C-12 is meant to address are as urgent now as they ever have been. I think we’re just scratching the surface of understanding the level of precarity that older adults are dealing with.
By all means, Bill C-12 should be passed quickly. The measures the government took last year to provide a one-time benefit of $500 and increasing OAS payments after the age of 75 will no doubt be very helpful. But the next consideration should be how we can further help Canadians avoid chronic financial insecurity in old age, including but not limited to an increase to the Guaranteed Income Supplement, to help the most financially precarious older Canadians.
The Chair: Thank you, witnesses.
Colleagues, we now move to questions.
Senator Bovey: Thank you, witnesses. Yes, you’ve been compelling, direct and forthright.
You’ve been eloquent in saying how stretched finances are for our seniors, especially those with urgent precarity, and if Bill C-12 can help this, I’ll be very pleased, though I think you’ve also said that, obviously, it is not enough.
We all know the time frame in which this bill has to be passed. What will happen if it’s not passed this week?
Mr. Webb: If I may say, older adults will continue to wonder if they can avoid eviction. They’ll wonder if they can buy groceries. We’ll have people who could be your mother, my mother, our grandparents, who continue to live in poverty while senators and parliamentarians wonder if we have our i’s dotted and t’s crossed. That would be shameful.
Danis Prud’homme, General manager, Réseau FADOQ: I would add that one third of Canadians receive the Guaranteed Income Supplement. They were struggling to make ends meet before the pandemic; with the pandemic and the problems with CERB and the CRB, it is safe to assume that this one third of Canadians will be short of everything. These people will not be able to afford food, medicine or even housing.
Ms. Tassé-Goodman: We also mentioned that these people who receive the Guaranteed Income Supplement and Old Age Security live below the poverty line, on approximately $19,200 a year.
We know very well that dental care is not included in this amount when we look at the market basket measure. Additional equipment, vision care or buying a pair of prescription glasses becomes a luxury for some seniors.
So we can see that this is of paramount importance and that we should not wait to increase financial assistance for these seniors.
Mr. Nicin: I would like to add that if we can’t pass something that’s a relatively quick administrative fix from the government, there will be little hope in the future that we could tackle the much larger public policy issues that got us here in the first place.
Senator Bovey: I want to thank you again. It has been very compelling.
Senator Patterson: I would like to say that, of course, everyone supports the intention of the bill, but the witnesses will all appreciate we do have a solemn duty as senators to make sure this is done correctly, especially something that has been rushed and not studied in any parliamentary committee before now.
My question is about something the minister said in her appearance before the committee. She said that this bill will fully compensate seniors for the loss of the GIS, which I understand has caused many hardships beyond merely financial shortfalls to seniors.
I wonder if you would have any comment about whether this bill is going to fully compensate seniors for this very unfortunate problem that has plagued the most vulnerable seniors for so long.
Mr. Webb: That observation is simply not true. Seniors who have lost their homes and apartments for non-payment of rent due to loss of the GIS will not be compensated by retroactive payment that comes a dollar short and a day late. CARP has had more to say about this, and we endorse those comments. There should be compensation far beyond just the retroactive payment of what should have been paid in the first place.
Mr. Prud’homme: The people involved will indeed be compensated as of June 2022. However, this will not in any way compensate for what happened prior to that; any loss incurred will not be compensated. This is why, as a first step, the lump sum payment must be made as quickly as possible to compensate people for what they experienced prior to that.
Secondly, it was known in advance that the existing exception for earnings should have been used in the case of the Guaranteed Income Supplement, which had been increased, and this whole situation could have been avoided from the beginning.
Senator Poirier: Thank you to the witnesses for being here. I have to say that all the witnesses we heard on Friday and today share two common things. The first is the importance of how quickly this bill needs to be passed. The second point that we heard was frustration with the lack of a timely governmental response to address the concerns of seniors on the issues that they have been trying to contact them about to get answers.
My question is the same one I asked of the witnesses earlier. I’ll keep it to one question because there is a time constraint.
The $742 million payment to seniors is being made under section 7 of the Department of Employment and Social Development Act. It allows the minister the ability to make a one-time grant without needing to bring the issue before Parliament. This was the same section used to make two other COVID benefit payments, the one-time to seniors in May of 2020 and again in August 2021.
I mention this because it underscores that there is no reason why this payment could not have been also announced a year ago and distributed to seniors in advance. Another option would have been to make multiple payments, perhaps every four months. Options like this were not only available to the government but would have avoided significant hardship for our seniors.
All of you don’t have to answer, but if a couple of the groups could answer. Were you aware of these facts, and do you have any comments on them?
Mr. Prud’homme: Yes, people saw their Guaranteed Income Supplement clawed back in the year after they started receiving CERB. People started calling and we started to make the government aware of it.
People have known for a long time that this affected seniors. Fundamentally, as I said before, everything that affects the GIS earnings exemption, which was increased in the last budget, should have been applied, and it should have been applied as easily as when CERB was rolled out. Now we have to correct it and do it as easily as when CERB was rolled out.
Mr. Webb: Senator Poirier, we were not aware of those facts, and our inquiries of the Minister of Seniors on the calculation and timing of the one-time payments have gone unanswered. We have not been able to establish a dialogue.
Senator Poirier: Thank you.
The Chair: We’ll go to Senator Cordy, who is the sponsor of the bill.
Senator Cordy: I agree with Senator Poirier. All the witnesses that we’ve heard have said the bill must be passed quickly, but they have also said there is a lot of work that needs to be done following that.
Mr. Webb, you spoke about your legal aid clinic that deals with the rights of seniors. We heard a lot about communication. How do you communicate with seniors, so they know they can come in? Could you give us some lessons on how to best communicate with seniors? We know a lot use email and so on, but not all do. What do you use?
Mr. Webb: Our primary instrument is the telephone. We have a staff of lawyers, paralegals, who are on the phone all day long with seniors, including Ms. Steward, who is there all the time dealing with older adults.
I was a staff litigation lawyer for 21 years. In that time, when I had a caller who had a question about their income security program — OAS or GIS — I would conference that caller with Service Canada immediately and get an answer.
In recent years, it has become almost impossible to access Service Canada by telephone. Seniors need better telephone access to Service Canada so that they can call someone and actually speak with a person. Older adults need a real person to speak to.
Senator Cordy: Thank you. That’s very direct and very helpful. I agree with you.
The Chair: Honourable senators, that concludes our witnesses on this issue.
Witnesses, I want to thank all of you for being here. Again, I apologize for constraining our interaction with you, but we have just half an hour to finish the study of the bill so we can meet our timelines.
Colleagues, is there any objection that the committee proceeds to clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-12, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act (Guaranteed Income Supplement)?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: Is there any objection that the title stand postponed?
An Hon. Senator: Agreed.
The Chair: Is there any objection that clause 1 carries?
Senator Patterson: Madam Chair, I wanted to give the committee notice of an amendment that should come as no surprise. I would therefore like to move:
That Bill C-12 be amended in clause 1, on page 1, by replacing lines 4 and 5 with the following:
“1 (1) Subparagraph (c)(i.1) of the definition income in section 2 of the Old Age Security Act is replaced by the following:
(i.1) the amount of the payment under the program referred to in section 275 of the Budget Implementation Act, 2021, No. 1,
(2) The definition income in section 2 of the Act is amended by adding the fol-”.
The Chair: Thank you, Senator Patterson. We all have copies of it. Thank you so much for circulating it. It is moved by the Honourable Senator Patterson:
That Bill C-12 be amended in clause 1, on page 1, by replacing lines 4 and 5 with the following:
“1 (1) Subparagraph (c)(i.1) of the definition income in section 2 of the Old Age Security Act is replaced by the following:
(i.1) the amount of the payment under the program referred to in section 275 of the Budget Implementation Act, 2021, No. 1,
(2) The definition income in section 2 of the Act is amended by adding the fol-”.
Senator Patterson: Dispense.
The Chair: Dispense, thank you very much. Are there any objections that the motion in amendment be adopted?
Senator Patterson: Madam Chair, can I speak to the amendment briefly?
The Chair: Of course, Senator Patterson.
Senator Patterson: Thank you, Madam Chair. I do want to speak briefly to this amendment, colleagues. I’m keenly aware of the sentiments about moving this important bill quickly. It is no secret that Senators Griffin, Quinn and I have raised significant concerns about a drafting error that occurred in the 2021 Budget Implementation Act. I know that this has also been addressed on second reading by other senators.
I know that the minister and officials have told this committee that there had been “no material impact.” But I still wonder and believe we have a solemn duty to wonder.
What clear legislative authority will the government and officials have to exempt the one-time payment from OAS calculations? If we are turning a willful blind eye to a significant drafting error based on the argument that we all know what the intent was, rather than what the actual law says, what precedent are we setting? If the budget implementation act had gone through the proper legislative review and rigour, we would have caught this error and corrected it then.
Now we have Bill C-12, a bill whose sole purpose is to enumerate payments — [Technical difficulties]
The Chair: This is most unfortunate. Clerk? We shall suspend until Senator Patterson comes back.
Senator Patterson: Colleagues, I cannot — [Technical difficulties]
Senator Lankin: Well, thank you very much. I actually would like to hear Senator Patterson’s explanation in full before I weighed in here. I see his picture has re-established but he is still frozen. I do not know if he can hear us. He might have to reconnect.
Also, I don’t know whether there are any other senators who, like Senator Griffin, who is here on the committee today who can — oh, Senator Patterson appears to be moving again.
The Chair: Yes. Senator Patterson, yes, you are back.
Senator Patterson: I’m sorry, Madam Chair, I have had connection problems and I will be as quick as I can. I’m not sure where I left off.
But I cannot stand by and condone a violation of the rule of law. And I do not believe that bureaucrats should dictate the legislative timetable — [Technical difficulties]
The Chair: This is really quite disturbing.
Senator Patterson: — that the word cannot or will not meet a time line set by bureaucrats — [Technical difficulties] — test system model is being developed as we speak. Now we’re being told not to do that because, if we do, we will jeopardize the payments of tens of thousands of seniors. We are being told to look the — [Technical difficulties]
The Chair: This is not working. This is not working for Senator Patterson, I’m deeply sorry. Senator Griffin, would you like to, perhaps, complete what Senator Patterson was saying?
Senator Griffin: Yes, of course. I don’t have the kind of experience that he has. He is a lawyer. But I’m very concerned about this issue.
In my speech in the Senate Chamber, I was very concerned about the fact that we don’t have a clear legislative authority to enable us to exempt the one-time payment from the OAS and GIS calculation. That is a problem. It is a problem that the people are now aware of in the department and in the political halls.
What they are saying is that we’ll fix it in a future piece of legislation. My point is we’re dealing with a piece of legislation right here which is in scope. Let’s fix it now. We all seem to be agreeable to the general concept of what’s trying to be done here. But because this was dumped on us at the last minute with a drafting error, we’re on a very slippery slope of not having legislative backing for what we’re proposing to do. And officials are saying that we will do it at some time in the future with a future piece of legislation.
Operating that way really bothers me. I know that Senator Patterson was able to communicate that it also bothers him. He is a lawyer and a former premier and so he is well aware of legislative matters and how it is important to be on a sound footing. It is a very slippery slope to say that we’ll fix it later.
It doesn’t need a Royal Recommendation. We’re clear on that because it was already budgeted for. And speed, well, I agree, the speedier, the better. We would have loved to have seen it long ago, as our witnesses have just said.
However, if we amend it today in committee then come back to the chamber and ask for leave, it can be addressed tomorrow, the same day as the report comes into the chamber. The CSG is certainly prepared to give leave to do that. From what I’m hearing from all of you today on the screen, you are gung-ho on getting this through. So let’s get it through, give leave and get it back to the House of Commons. Obviously, it passed there so quickly the first time around that it will do the same this time around and we could have it done later this week.
The Chair: Thank you, Senator Griffin.
Senator Lankin: All of us were unable to hear all of Senator Patterson’s points, but I do think that we understand the issue. We did hear him speak to it last week. We did hear Senator Griffin in the chamber, and I believe that Senator Quinn has raised issues and all of us understand it.
Before I comment on the amendment or speak to it, I just wonder, Madam Chair, if you have an opinion about whether this is in scope as Senator Griffin said it was. I know it deals with the Old Age Security Act, this particular drafting error from a year ago. It’s not currently contained within this bill.
It may be that the purpose of the bill in terms of payment brings that into scope. But I’m not clear of that. I wondered if I could ask you to inform us if there is a view on this from the clerks and then from yourself as chair.
The Chair: Senator Lankin, are you asking me to make a ruling on the admissibility?
Senator Lankin: Yes.
The Chair: In that case, colleagues, I’m going to ask for your indulgence to suspend for a minute or two while I speak to the clerk on this matter.
Senator Lankin: Madam Chair, do you need to hear from other senators on the argument?
The Chair: It would be quite reasonable to do so. Thank you, Senator Lankin. Senator Gagné will have an opinion, I’m sure, as will Senator Cordy, and I see Senator Griffin’s hand raised as well.
Senator Gagné: I was going to ask Senator Cordy, who is the sponsor, to go before me.
The Chair: Okay.
Senator Cordy: Is this just on Senator Lankin’s motion as to —
The Chair: Yes, it is a point of order.
Senator Cordy: Yes, I asked that question during my many phone calls with department officials. They weren’t absolutely certain one way or the other, because this amendment coming forward basically deletes the substance of the whole bill to put this motion in that the numbering was changed in the budget implementation act that came through when it did not change Bill C-12 directly. I can’t answer your question other than I did ask about it, and I didn’t really get an answer that I found conclusive and so —
Senator Quinn: Point of order.
I wasn’t intending on speaking, but I think the last statement from my colleague is overstating it. The amendment being proposed is not putting this bill aside; it is basically changing section 276 to 275, so they have the legal authority to proceed with the payments that they’ve been doing without the legal framework in place over the past year. That is what this bill or amendment is.
The Chair: Thank you. That is a clarification on the question as to whether it is within scope or not. You’re not making another point of order, are you, Senator Quinn?
Senator Quinn: No, it’s to clarify —
The Chair: Thank you. I appreciate it. Senator Poirier?
Senator Poirier: I thought that Senator Gagné was going to speak to it. She can go ahead, and then I will —
The Chair: You are very graceful — gracious and graceful.
Senator Gagné: The government has already recognized the typographical issue as raised by Senator Griffin. It does not necessarily relate to or pertain to existing provisions or clauses in Bill C-12. It is seeking to remedy an error to the same section of the Old Age Security Act that derived from the legislative process surrounding Bill C-30, so I wanted to point that out.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Senator Poirier: Thank you. It’s not on the point of order.
It was just on the amendment itself. I know we’ve heard discussions —
Senator Lankin: Can we do the point of order first?
Senator Poirier: Then, I will come back later.
Senator Griffin: I want to address the point of order. Both Bill C-12 and the drafting error amend the same section the Old Age Security Act, which is section 2 under the definition of income. Senate rules regarding admissibility are quite clear that it is permissible, on page 143, of Senate Procedure in Practice, where it states:
. . . only those sections of the act that are being amended by the bill may be subject to amendment by the committee.
That’s clearly the case here.
I consulted with Senator Dalphond about this. Actually, Senator Quinn and I both had a discussion with him. Of course, the first thing he asked as a former judge was, “Is it in scope?” After our discussion, he decided it was definitely in scope.
The Chair: Thank you, Senator Griffin. We’re still debating the point of order. Senator Patterson, did you want to weigh in on that? Senator Petitclerc, I saw your hand up and then not anymore. Am I right?
Senator Petitclerc: You did, but it was not clearly on the point of order, although I’m very interested to hear what my colleagues have to say on it.
Senator Patterson: Briefly, I just wanted to point out that, first of all, this amendment was prepared with the advice of the law clerk. I would not for a minute want to speak on behalf of the law clerks, but I believe they considered the issue of scope and, therefore, drafted the amendment with that in mind. I’m confident that it is within scope.
Bill C-12 is designed to exempt certain COVID-related benefits, the amendment proposes to correct a drafting error in the budget, and both Bill C-12 and the drafting error relate to the exemption of a one-time payment. They amend the same section of the Old Age Security Act, which is section 2 under the definition of income.
The Senate rules on admissibility are quite clear that it is permissible. Senator Griffin referred to page 143 of the Senate Prodecure in Practice where only those sections of the parent act that are being amended by the bill may be subject to amendment by the committee. That’s clearly the case here. We’re dealing with the same section 2 of the act.
The Chair: Okay. Senator Lankin, back to you. Did you want to speak to the point of order?
Okay. Colleagues, as I —
Mr. Charbonneau: Senator Lankin is on mute.
The Chair: I think she has lowered her hand —
Senator Lankin: My apologies for that. What I was saying was that I will await your ruling, Madam Chair. I just wanted that question answered for me.
The Chair: Yes.
Senator Lankin: I would also like to speak to the amendment. I’m still on the list for that.
The Chair: Thank you, colleagues. With your indulgence, we’ll suspend for a few minutes while I consult with the clerk and come back to you with a decision.
Colleagues, I am back and ready to make my ruling. I want to thank you all of you for your participation in this —
Mr. Charbonneau: We can now proceed.
The Chair: Thank you, honourable senators, for your participation in this debate. As I said, I’m prepared to provide my ruling. My decision is based on the relevant procedural authorities and past Senate precedent, which I have spent some time studying over the weekend. According to Senate Procedure in Practice, on page 141, “An amendment must respect the principle and scope of the bill, and must be relevant to it.”
The written authorities agree that an amendment is out of order if it is irrelevant to the bill, beyond its scope, inconsistent with the bill or if it effectively reverses the bill’s principles.
As chair, it is my role to adjudicate whether this amendment falls within these parameters. So in the House of Commons, principles and scope are interpreted in a very rigid manner. However, as noted in December 2009 by Speaker Kinsella, who said:
. . . several Senate Speakers have expressed a preference for presuming a matter to be in order, unless and until the contrary position is established. This bias in favour of allowing debate, except where a matter is clearly out of order, is fundamental to maintaining the Senate’s role as a chamber of discussion and reflection.
While I do not believe this amendment is destructive to the principle of the bill, some senators have questioned whether the amendment is beyond the scope of the bill. Having weighed the various arguments, I believe that this is a matter that requires further deliberation and analysis by all senators. Being mindful of the urgency with which we are being asked to consider this matter, I therefore rule that the amendment is in order and debate may continue.
I would remind members that accepting the admissibility of this amendment does not mean that the committee agrees or disagrees with the substance of the proposed amendment but simply that we will have the opportunity to discuss the amendment and vote on it.
I would also remind senators that this bill will be debated again in the Senate when the bill is studied at third reading and senators have further opportunity to comment. Thank you.
Senator Cordy: Honourable senators, I would ask that we not take out our frustrations on the government or government officials, because of the effect it will have on our most vulnerable seniors, those who are collecting the GIS.
We know that there is a typographical error. We know that. Due to the renumbering of a clause. The Minister of Seniors’ officials assured Senator Griffin on the briefing call for Bill C-12 that this would have no material impact on the delivery of services and benefits for seniors. Finance Canada also assured Senator Griffin that it will not have an impact on the delivery of services.
We have heard that this technicality will be corrected as part of an upcoming miscellaneous statue law amendment act. And if it isn’t included, then we can amend it and add it when it comes to the Senate. We can bring in a private member’s bill to the Senate to correct what is a renumbering issue. It’s a technicality.
Senators, this is a question that we do have to ask ourselves: Senator Griffin, Senator Patterson and Senator Quinn have raised the point that there is a technicality related to numbering the clauses in the Budget Implementation Bill of 2021. Nobody will deny that. There is. Officials at Finance and at the Seniors Department have said that this technicality would not impact the delivery of the services.
So do we risk not passing Bill C-12? This timeline could affect thousands of seniors who receive low-income benefits. We heard that from every witness. Every witness on Friday and every witness today said that this bill had to pass immediately. They did certainly tell us about all the concerns that they have about seniors, and I certainly was very much aware of challenges before, but their testimony was excellent, and we know that by passing this bill it’s not the end.
We know that the seniors who will be most affected are mainly women, minorities and people with disabilities. So, as my mother would always say, don’t let perfection get in the way of making things better.
We have heard from all witnesses over the course of two days of testimony — four panels — that this bill should pass immediately. So I cannot support this amendment that has been brought forward by Senator Patterson. Thank you.
Senator Quinn: Would the honourable senator take a question?
Senator Cordy: Sure, Senator Quinn.
Senator Quinn: My only question is: Without the amendment, which is a relatively easy amendment, where is the legal authority for the government to proceed with the payments?
Senator Cordy: Senator Quinn, Finance Canada has assured Senator Griffin at the briefing that this would not affect the giving of the benefits to those who are entitled to GIS. And the Minister of Seniors has also assured Senator Griffin that this will not hamper the distribution of the benefits.
Senator Quinn: Supplementary. It is not a question of the process; it is a question of legality.
Senator Cordy: I have spoken to both departments. I spoke to them at the committee on Friday. I spoke to them on the weekend. I called them. And there is no problem that the seniors will get their benefits. They will get their benefits.
Senator Quinn: Thank you, senator.
Senator Petitclerc: I want to voice my concern and my view of this, in maybe a simple way, but we have something in front of us that we have the capacity to fix. So quite simply I’m asking why not do it while we have it and while it is our job to do it. This is the way that I see it.
When I look at the many colleagues — and thank you, everybody here and in the chamber who have voiced themselves — I see no answer saying that, if we do want to do it — and this bill was adopted unanimously — I can’t see anybody having an objection on this very simple technical amendment. So I don’t see how it is not possible to make it happen if everybody from our side and the other side chooses to make it happen. This is how I’m going to make my decision.
On the other hand, I have not seen, either, a commitment — and sure, we can talk about private members’ bills, but we know how those go. I have been here only six years, but I know how those sometimes never come to reality, unfortunately. So I have not seen a clear commitment to really fix it with a timeline. So I just wanted to voice how I’m going to make my decision.
The Chair: Thank you, Senator Petitclerc.
Senator Lankin: I want to thank Senators Griffin, Patterson and Quinn for bringing this issue forward. It is exactly the kind of issue that the Senate, when we have the appropriate time to delve into bills, looks for. It is part of our job. We know that in the cut and thrust of the partisanship in the House of Commons that sometimes these technical oversights occur and they don’t get caught. However, I am going to vote against this, and I want to explain why.
I appreciate what Senator Petitclerc just said, and I think that others have made reference to this as well, that this bill passed unanimously in the House of Commons and therefore it is no problem sending it back and get this amendment passed. We must remember that if we want this bill to be in place by March 4 — which I think we all agree on as well — we must remember that the House of Commons is a minority government at this point in time.
We must also realize that the events that have occurred in the last little bit have overtaken the debate in the House of Commons on bills at this point. There is a motion with respect to the establishment of the review committee, which is very contentious between parties there. Who knows whether they would get to it this week or whether it would become one of a number of trading chips in the negotiations that go on? I feel strongly that no one can assure that it will be done in the House of Commons in a timely fashion.
I also want to address the issue of the appropriate legal authority. Senator Quinn is raising that square on, and I think, writ large, in looking at the bill, he is absolutely right. But if you look at the fact that this drafting error was caught last year after it had gone through in the BIA, the Budget Implementation Act. As we know, that is a huge document with lots of stuff in it. This got missed, but it has been acknowledged. There has been a very direct commitment — I heard someone say they didn’t hear from the government, but the minister said very directly that she heard us and that she will move to bring this forward in a timely fashion.
That may not mean waiting for a miscellaneous statute amendment act. It may mean it will be in the BIA. I think Senator Griffin had suggested that as a possibility when we met with the minister last week.
At this point in time, because we have an administrative solution that was put in place once this was acknowledged — because other provisions have made use of this with administrative knowledge of what the correct number should be — that it won’t have an impact on getting the funds out to seniors. What will have a material impact is if we are unable to get this through. If we pass it, it goes for Royal Assent. If we amend it and send it back to the House of Commons, in the current environment there, I don’t know that that it will be done. We have to prioritize the provision of these benefits to seniors, in a timely fashion given all the testimony we’ve heard, above what is clearly our desire to do the right thing here. We should work together to find another way to put pressure on the government. In fact, I suggest, in the third-reading speeches, that we all address this and our common concern.
Senator Gagné: I respectfully invite all of my honourable colleagues to reject this amendment.
I urge all of you to oppose this amendment. The fundamental objective of Bill C-12 is to exempt any amount of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, including amounts paid under the Employment Insurance Act, the Canada Recovery Benefit, the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit, the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit and the Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit from calculation of income for GIS purposes in future years. It would prevent GIS recipients who received pandemic benefits in 2021 or later from experiencing a loss of or reduction in future benefits.
The government cannot start changing the Canada Revenue Agency and Employment and Social Development Canada systems to treat income differently than instructed by the Income Tax Act without first having in place legislative authority from Bill C-12. Therefore, retroactivity will not work for this.
It is important to note that the Ministry of Seniors officials have assured that this numbering issue has no material impact on the delivery of services and benefits for seniors. And as Senator Cordy mentioned, Finance Canada has also assured Senator Griffin of this issue previously.
The departmental officials who appeared before the committee on Friday past, who are charged with implementing these important changes, warned there would be serious operational risks if Bill C-12 didn’t receive Royal Assent by March 4.
This is a quote from Mr. Cliff Groen, Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Benefits and Integrated Services Branch at Employment and Social Development Canada:
The critical issue with March 4 is that income feed from CRA has to be turned back on. It is paused, as always happens at this time of year . . . . If we do not turn it back on immediately — not in July. Immediately — tens of thousands of seniors every week will be impacted . . . .
The impact would be felt on overall GIS recipients writ large. . . . Every week, we process tens of thousands of applications . . . [for] Canadians’ entitlement for GIS. So our projections are, and it varies a little bit from week to week, that every week it is way more than 10,000. Some weeks it’s 30,000, 40,000 applications . . . .
Because of the pause that happens every year with the shift over from one tax year to the next, currently we are not processing anyone’s GIS applications, and we cannot do that until the feed is turned back on, and we are unable to turn that feed back on until we know where the legislation is going. Literally, tens of thousands of seniors every week would be negatively impacted if this legislation is not passed by March 4.
I would note for the record that Minister Khera has sent a formal correspondence to Senator Griffin with a commitment that the government will seek to remedy this issue through another legislative mechanism. To quote the letter:
While this renumbering matter has not resulted in any material impacts on benefits and services for seniors, we share your interest in ensuring clarity is provided on this matter. This would ensure that there is no confusion regarding the administration of this payment. One option would be to resolve this through a forthcoming miscellaneous statute law amendment act. If not accepted by parliamentarians as part of this process, we will put it in another legislative vehicle to resolve this in a timely fashion.
While the government shares the senators’ concerns with addressing the renumbering issue, it is important to remember that Bill C-12 will help 80,000 low-income working seniors, and the government has provided assurances that the drafting issue will not affect seniors’ benefits or services that they receive.
The Chair: Thank you, Senator Gagné. Can you quickly wrap up your comments because we’re running short of time?
Senator Gagné: I just wanted to mention that if the Senate were to amend the bill at this late stage, returning it to the minority House of Commons means the implementation timeline would be in flux, meaning clients would not be served properly. I just wanted to mention that Thursday of this week is expected to be an opposition day in the House of Commons, and the house is then scheduled to have a two-week break as of next week.
The Chair: Colleagues, we are debating Senator Patterson’s motion. Are there any objections that the motion in amendment be adopted?
I hear some objections. We will now proceed to a roll-call vote. Before the roll call, I would like to ask the ex officio member who is here today, Senator Gagné, if you will be voting. If not, please inform the clerk. The clerk of the committee will call the members’ names, beginning with the chair and then going in alphabetical order. When called, senators will unmute their microphone and indicate whether they vote for, against or abstain. The clerk will then announce the results of the vote. It is my duty as chair to declare whether the motion is carried or defeated.
Clerk, please proceed.
Mr. Charbonneau: Simply to clarify, Senator Gagné, are you going to vote?
Senator Gagné: Yes, I will vote.
Mr. Charbonneau: The Honourable Senator Omidvar?
Senator Omidvar: Against.
Mr. Charbonneau: The Honourable Senator Bernard?
Senator Bernard: Against.
Mr. Charbonneau: The Honourable Senator Bovey?
Senator Bovey: Against.
Mr. Charbonneau: The Honourable Senator Gagné?
Senator Gagné: Against.
Mr. Charbonneau: The Honourable Senator Griffin? I take that as a yes.
Senator Griffin: For.
Mr. Charbonneau: The Honourable Senator Kutcher?
Senator Kutcher: Against.
Mr. Charbonneau: The Honourable Senator Lankin?
Senator Lankin: Against.
Mr. Charbonneau: The Honourable Senator Mégie?
Senator Mégie: Against.
Mr. Charbonneau: The Honourable Senator Moodie? She’s not here.
The Honourable Senator Patterson?
Senator Patterson: For.
Mr. Charbonneau: The Honourable Senator Petitclerc?
Senator Petitclerc: For.
Mr. Charbonneau: The Honourable Senator Poirier?
Senator Poirier: Against.
Mr. Charbonneau: We have three ”yeas”, eight “nays” and zero abstentions.
The Chair: I declare the motion defeated.
We now go back to clause-by-clause review of the bill. Do we go back to clause 1?
Mr. Charbonneau: You need to put the question of whether there are any objections to clause 1.
The Chair: Are there any objections that clause 1 carried?
Senator Gagné: Agreed.
The Chair: Are there any objections that the title carries?
Some Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: Are there any objections that the bill carries?
Some Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: Are there any objections that the law clerk and parliamentary counsel be authorized to make technical, numerical and typographical changes and adjustments to the amendments adopted by the committee?
Senator Bovey: There was no amendment.
The Chair: Okay, strike that. Does the committee wish to consider appending observations to the report?
Senator Bovey: No.
Senator Griffin: I have a suggestion for an observation. Obviously, we are all very concerned about the legislative —
The Chair: Senator Griffin, if we want to make an observation, we need to proceed in camera.
Senator Griffin: Could we do that?
The Chair: We will suspend for a minute before we return.
Senator Patterson: Agreed.
(The committee continued in camera.)
(The committee resumed in public.)
The Chair: Are there any objections that I report this bill to the Senate? If there is no further business, this meeting is adjourned.
(The committee adjourned.)