Speech on Increasing Age of Eligibility for OAS from 65 to 67

I rise today to support the New Democrat Party opposition day motion sponsored by my colleague for London—Fanshawe. She has put a tremendous amount of work into this issue and I applaud her dedication to Canadians.

Through budget 2012, the eligibility age for OAS and GIS will be raised from 65 to 67 starting in April 2023, with full implementation by January 2029. This means that all Canadians under the age of 54 will be affected by this change.

I do not remember hearing about this change in the election, which was just a year ago. In fact, the Conservative election platform stated, “We will not cut transfer payments to individuals or to the provinces for essential things like health care, education and pensions”. After the election, the Prime Minister stood in the House and said, “This government has been very clear. We will not cut pensions”.

Not only did the Conservatives fail to campaign on this issue, they hid their agenda and misled Canadians. That is unacceptable.

Canada's New Democrats believe that the OAS and GIS is easily sustainable and actually projected to decrease in cost relative to the size of the economy in the long run.

According to York University pension and retirement expert, Professor Thomas Klassen:

I haven’t heard any academic argue that there’s a crisis with OAS, which is why I was surprised a few days ago when the Prime Minister seemed to say there was a crisis...there’s got to be a lot more evidence that there’s a problem, and I don’t see that evidence.

This is a manufactured crisis. This is not about the sustainability of the OAS and GIS; this is about an ideological agenda.

Edward Whitehouse, the leader of the OECD pension team, stated:

The analysis suggests that Canada does not face major challenges of financial sustainability with its public pension schemes....Long-term projections show that public retirement-income provision is financially sustainable. Population ageing will naturally increase public pension spending, but the rate of growth is lower and the starting point better than many OECD countries.

Canada's New Democrats want to strengthen Canada's pension plan, not weaken it. We believe that a better option would be to expand CPP. A modest increase in premiums can finance a doubling of the CPP, providing real sustainable retirement security for all Canadians.

I want to read a few emails that I received from Canadians who are very concerned about these changes.

The first one is from Fred and Evelyn. Fred says:

I am 68 years old next month, and Evelyn is 65. Your proposal to double pension benefits is exactly what I had in mind for some time.

They are referring to the proposal of Canada's New Democrats. They go on to say:

Ourselves included, we worked hard in Canada, still paying taxes and bring up our children as good citizens. I...work 40 Hrs a week, at night, as a watchman at a major vehicle dealership, (at minimum wage), and Evelyn works part-time as a Hostess at a local Real Canadian Superstore. We're not lazy, and we never were, and it would be nice sometime soon to be able to bid good bye to our employers, if our pensions were doubled in total!

This one is from Teresa, from Coquitlam, who says this about the government:

In addition, although the changes to the OAS do not affect me, I think you are wrong to extend the eligibility to 67 yr[s]. You will be penalizing older people in lower socioeconomic levels and vastly underrating the pain you are inflicting on working people who do not have the options that higher salaried Canadians enjoy. You do not have my support for these changes. I think many other Canadians feel the same way.

Claudette says:

This change will not only impact seniors, who will be forced to work years longer, but also our country's youth, who now see few decent employment opportunities. This will only worsen as people delay retirement because of financial hardship. Assurances by the government that raising the age for OAS would have no impact on current retirees are misleading. This change would impact everyone, and immediately.

I also have a number of emails that were sent in when people who had looked at my website felt that they wanted to speak out and voice their concern.

John, in Port Coquitlam, says:

The Prime Minister should have raised this policy issue as part of his re-election platform. We all know what happened to our former premier [this, of course, is in British Columbia] for not being forthright with the electorate with the HST. We need our political leaders to be more honest, open and transparent.

The next one is from Anne, in Coquitlam. She says:

While these proposed cuts will not affect my pension, as I have been retired for over 10 years, I have family and friends for whom these cuts will definitely have an impact. It may mean working longer, if health and job opportunity allow, or significantly reducing their ability to cover necessary costs, particularly medications and health care costs. As costs in all areas of living continually increase, this small pension can mean the difference between getting by or having to make very difficult choices affecting health and longevity.

This one is from Sandra, in Coquitlam, who says:

This decision adversely affects women who have raised families. This is despicable and unnecessary and puts hardship on vulnerable people who were hard-working and law-abiding citizens. It seems mean and petty to me.

Robin, in New Westminster, says:

For those of us reaching our senior years, please maintain funding for the OAS. My grandpa fought in World War I and my dad in World War II. I was born here and have lived here all my life. I have worked, paid my taxes and paid my dues. Many wonderful seniors who made this country what it is today desperately need the OAS funding. Many will find themselves in very difficult situations if the OAS is compromised.

Nargis, in Coquitlam, says:

[The] Prime Minister...is not thinking about the seniors who have worked hard for this country and are looking forward to their retirement. I think it is very unfair if he goes through with it. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister will create more poverty amongst seniors. I do agree it is a direct attack on the most vulnerable people.

Lennox, in Burnaby, writes:

Seniors who have worked all their lives and paid their taxes contributing to the economy of Canada should not be made to endure cuts to their pension in their old age. This is utterly unfair.

Donna, in Coquitlam, says:

I understand the Conservatives are making plans to change the eligibility age for OAS. They do not appear to know the average Canadian too well at all. I am now 64 and will qualify for OAS in August. I understand that I will qualify, but what of the next generation to come? Pensions are being eroded or done away with completely, so what will the average Canadian live on? I was a single mother of three, and the concept of saving for a rainy day never entered into the plan. Shame on the Prime Minister and all his pals. Shame, shame.

Mary, in Coquitlam, says:

People who do not have any source of income apart from OAS and GIS need to have additional financial assistance. The cost of living continues to rise without the funds to support the basic necessities for them.

Finally, Eunice writes from Coquitlam:

The Canada pension plan is wholly funded by employers and employees with government management. Why does your government plan to stop CPP for those now 57 years and under, when it has been proven to be sustainable with good government management?

The Deputy Speaker:

I must interrupt the hon. member at this point. Perhaps he can conclude during questions and comments.

Ms. Eve Adams (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs, CPC):

Madam Speaker, the opposition will say that there will be a reduction in pensions, and that is patently false. Nothing could be further from the truth; in fact, our government has made the most significant enhancements to OAS and GIS in some 25 years, while the NDP has voted against that. Perhaps this member would like to stand in his place and tell us why he has consistently voted against increasing the guaranteed income supplement for our neediest seniors across the country.

Mr. Fin Donnelly:

Madam Speaker, what I voted against was a bad budget.

That is what we are looking at as we look at a package of priorities throughout the budget, and that is what I did not support. This budget does not serve Canadians; in fact, the Conservatives' priorities are to spend billions of dollars on corporate tax giveaways while slashing services that families rely on in Canada. That is what I voted against, and that is what I see happening here in terms of the change to OAS eligibility from age 65 to age 67. That is what Canadians are speaking to me about through letters, through emails and through talking to me. That is what their concerns are. This is a question of priorities. This is a question that Canadians feel the Conservatives have not got right.