04.01.2012 12:00 AM

In today’s Sun: No April Fool’s – Harper’s war on seniors

Of the many things that Budget 2012 will be remembered for, the assault on Canadian seniors must surely rank as Number One.

The importance of the change to Old Age Security (OAS) cannot be overstated. The Stephen Harper regime has decided — without an election mandate, and without any consultation whatsoever — to fundamentally remake the way in which Canadians approach their retirement years.

It’s breathtakingly brave, or breathtakingly stupid, depending on your political affiliation: Harper’s Conservatives have chosen to deny Canadians access to old age benefits until age 67 — and not age 65, as they have been paying for, and expecting, for a half-century. It is, fundamentally, a reordering of the social contract between citizens and government. It is an undeniably historic move. And all that remains to be seen is whether Canadian senior citizens, and those approaching retirement years, will let Harper get away with it.

54 Comments

  1. kre8tv says:

    My reading of this is that seniors and those boomerish soon-to-be seniors all got a pass on this because the cut-off age is 54. Folks in their 40s are the ones who are really taking this on the chin. Upward mobility has been hard enough for that group as it is with people staying in the jobs longer, and now they get to work two more years until they can collect OAS. Of course any smart Gen-Xer will tell you that this is just the start of a trend. A few budgets from now, they’ll move the goal post closer to age 70.

  2. blueworld says:

    Problem is Harper put a wrench in the plans. He made sure all those affected are not the ones who will be voting for him. The seniors voting for him now or again in 2015 aren’t affected and we all know the attention span of most Canadians. If it doesn’t affect them, they won’t rumble. Brilliant strategy! By the time it affects anybody, Harper will be senior citizen himself, and the oil industry will take such good care of him, that he won’t need a pension pension. He will reap the House of Commons one instead.

    Nice! I’m sure by that time we will have a few Liberal Gov’t in between to repeal the plans and refashion things more to their liking.

  3. William says:

    I am actually onside with this move. People are living longer today and that has to be reflected in government programs. Other nations are already doing this too.

    True, this wasn’t an explicit plank in the platform and so political advantage may or may not be had. I was listening to a radio panel show here in Montreal on Friday and neither the LPC nor the NDP strategist claimed that they would roll this back if elected. If they couldn’t commit to that right now then they basically get to blame the CPC while not doing anything about it.

    I’m 48 and so this won’t affect me for awhile. But it will be interesting to see what Canadian seniors think, as you say they have been overwhelmingly in the CPC corner.

    I’m just glad that Trudeau thumped Brazeau.

    Best Twitter RT of the evening @anteyekon4 : “Trudeau celebrates earth hour by knocking Brazeau’s lights out”

    • william smith says:

      You are 48 and what job do you do? I ‘ll bet it is not that physical, driving a truck, pounding nails, pushing hand wheels on a lathe or any of the other physical jobs that joe lunch bucket works at? In those cases where one’s body is past redemption by the physical nature of the job what do you propose to do. In many cases some of the survivors of the job market can’t make it to the RA. I would suggest that in this rich country of ours where we can afford to give $6B of tax cuts to corporations that post heal;thy profits and to the 1% that sock it away in dividend income there is more than enough wealth to allow the retirement age to be much lower for all

      • Tim Sullivan says:

        As it turned out, it was, after hearing all the parties debate such an important policy turn-around … now, wait. What?

        Oh, that’s right. It was imposed, not debated. Yeah, those clowns, expected to be consulted.

      • william smith says:

        spoken like the lord of the g****ed manor Gord get off your elitist horse

      • Frank Talarico says:

        Then why the hell pay for it if we can’t rely on it?

    • Michael says:

      I don’t understand why people living longer has to be reflected in government programs.

      Surely one of the benefits we reap from technological and medical advances as a society should be a longer and more comfortable retirement.

      Where is it written that life should be spent working until a few years before the grave?

      • smelter rat says:

        Exactly. The OAS program was never in danger. This is simply Harper’s war on poor people exposed to daylight.

  4. william smith says:

    Dollars to donuts the #1 Liberla election promise 2015 – keep the pension eligibility at 65!

  5. Al Eisele says:

    Yes, this is an assault on future seniors such as my wife and, myself. Get this :her 65th birthday is on April 11th just 11 days after the supposed cut off date and, mine will be on October 31st in 2023! What a slap in the face to loyal conservative voters. Both of us will have worked nearly 50 years and, we will have faithfully paid all those damn taxes to all those socialistic governments over the years. Many (even at the Sun) say OAS is a form of welfare entitlement. Is it really?
    Working hard for nearly 50 years makes OAS our entitlement when we turn 65. We deserve it. Along with our private pensions, CPP and, modest savings we will live in relative comfort in our golden years. Chopping the OAS for two extra years takes a good chunk of money away from us.
    Yes, we will be lucky but, what about those without private pensions?
    Increasingly, it looks like we all work until we drop.
    As usual we pay while government continues to grow and, the MP’s continue with their gold plated pensions.
    Some conservative budget this was.

    • bluegreenblogger says:

      Oh Really, we do not directly contribute? Then perhaps you should inform Revenue Canada, as every week I am obligated to sequester a portion of my employees payroll, (and more than match it out of my own pocket) to remit for CPP contributions. The Conservatives did not need to cut GST, and they did not need to spend all those tens of billions on gazebo’s and hockey rinks for good Conservative ridings. A top up of the CPP would have cost far less. Furthermore, the fund would have invested that top up, and provided a long term boost to Canada’s economy. Fact is that the Conservatives, when faced with choices, CHOSE to throw away tens of billions on GST relief, and then chose to pay for it by upping the retirement age. They had a choice, and they made their choice, and the way a democracy works is that they will be held accountable. And for you to call it welfare is astounding! All those seniors, in fact all working Canadians made contributions for their entire working lives. The fact that the Government did not effectively manage those contributions is not the fault of the contributor. The contract existed, pay every week, and receive a pittance when you retire. When the CPC stops forcibly deducting CPP contributions from peoples paycheques, THEN you can call it welfare. Of course, you make your living from selling Insurance. Now we know why you are such a total knee jerk Conservative, THIS is YOUR payoff, you get to make a whole bunch of money selling people pensions as they scramble to avoid poverty in their old age.

      • bluegreenblogger says:

        rubbish. I made the point that the Federal Government mis-manages CPP contributions. The federal government in their infinite wisdom decides to shovel CPP contributions into general revenues, and then pay the benefit out of pocket. You want to argue that a payroll tax specifically named CPP contribution, and the revenue stream it generates for recipients which is called a pension is not in fact a pension. I am sorry, but if you promise the rubes a pension, take money from them whilst calling it a pension contribution, and then fail to invest those contributions for the purpose of funding the pension, then by definition it is not a pension? It is NOT simple simon stuff. It is a travesty. It is a game of smoke and mirrors, and deception played on Canadians by their Government. And here you are acting as an apologist for this wilful deception. Your Government is perpetuating the fib. Many people actually believe they are saving for their retirement every time you wankers skim another $30 from their paycheque and call it a pension contribution. Clever Tulkasaurus knows that it is a lie, and earns his living explaining the lie to the well to do who can afford his pension and retirement products. For those who cannot afford it, well they are ‘simple simons’ and can go to hell. Let them figure it out for themselves. Even better, if they are so dumb, skin them alive, and buy some gazebo’s. After all, it will be their own fault if they retire with insufficient savings, What kind of simple simons would expect a pension to pay out when it isn’t really a pension?

    • Michael says:

      Why not just lower the threshold at which the clawback begins? Then those that truly need it get it. What a concept.

      Unless of course there is some idealogical reason for reducing benefits.

    • Tim Sullivan says:

      “slap in the face to loyal conservative voters”.

      Let me catch my breath here, I’m laughing too much …

      I would have thought
      1) deficit spending 2) prorogation multiple times 3) early election call against the law 4) committee tactics to reduce public criticism of government 5) appointing a Liberal to Cabinet after an election 6) appointing Senators 7) overspending on elections 8) increasing the size of government 9) having a bankrupt, disbarred lawyer run the PM’s office 10) where do I stop before I get to OAS reductions?

      would be a slap in the face to loyal conservative voters. Suckling at the public teat delayed by 2 yrs is about the most consistent of conservative values, is it Gord?

      Why, pray tell, are you a conservative voter, loyal or whatever, or do you feel you, AS A CONSERVATIVE VOTER, are owed something from the state?

  6. Steve T says:

    This is a perfect example of how there can never be an intelligent debate on social services in this country. Inevitably, the political rhetoric gets tossed around, and the proposed changes get scuttled.

    The magic age of 65, for all sorts of retirement-based benefits, was created over half a century ago. People tended to live into their early 70s, so the various taxpayer-funded benefits only had a short duration. Does it really make sense to avoid adjusting these benefits, regardless of changes to people’s lifespans? Making logical changes based on real demographics is not an “attack on seniors” – it is reality. Keeping the age of retirement at 65 forever means that people are going to spend 1/3 or more of their lives being funded by taxpayers. Is that fair?

    This is the same approach that opponents of healthcare reform take. Whenever changes to the Canada Health Act are proposed (perhaps, say, to introduce a component of private care – like exists in most of Europe and the rest of the world), the political machine rolls out and starts throwing around terms like “American-style” healthcare (even though that is untrue). There are a lot of vested interests in keeping the status quo, so this approach is much easier.

    In both cases, it is the silent majority that has to suffer. With OAS, taxpayers just keep on paying money into a shrinking pie. With healthcare, we keep dumping money down a bottomless pit, while waiting lists and quality of care continue to decline.

    • John Goerzen says:

      I think that there is some mis-conception about what OAS provides. If you are a person of reasonable retirement means, much of OAS will be taxed back, and it isn’t much to begin with. If you are without means then the OAS could be all you have to fund your “golden years” .

      The real tragedy is that those of us who lead work lives that are relatively easy on the body can probably coninue to work in some fashion past 65 even of it is at Tims. However, the person that has had a physical labor job can not be expected to continue probably even to 65.

      Then there is the personal health factor. We have all seen the individual whose body and health has given out on him far earlier than age 65 and, also, the individual whose extremely active into their 70’s.

      I would guess that most of us would agree that the OAS should be there to help those people that really need it. So, I suggest that, if the OAS scheme is going to be underfunded to serve the needs of all the poor elderly among us, we should find another way of determing who gets OAS rather than arbitrarily using the persons age.

      • Cam says:

        Agreed. Not always on opposite sides of the solution to the discussion.

        • bluegreenblogger says:

          Dis-agreed. What’s the difference between a stock of capital (net worth), and a flow of cash (income)? In real terms, they are just two ways of valuing wealth. Why the heck would you want all retired Canadians to submit a balance sheet to Revenue Canada along with their Tax returns? No need to change it, if you do not want to pay pensions to wealthy people, then claw the proceeds back without imposing another reporting burden on both Revenue Canada, and the Taxpayer. Even better, call a spade a spade. Reform Canadian pensions so that the pension is actually a pension. It would be very difficult to fund the plan today, after all the fiscal air was sucked out of the room with recent CPC spendthrift ways. That does not mean that it is not a worthy goal. Make the contract real, instead of a lie. You may be surprised that Canadians would be willing to fund a real honest to goodness pension if offered the choice. But that would hit the tulkasaurus’ pocketbook pretty hard, not to mention all those Insurance Companies and banks. I guess that we need to support those poor downtrodden private pension providers.

  7. Thegrumpydwarf says:

    With all due respect, isn’t it actually awar on the young andfuture generations? Boomers are going to be okay. Its me and my kids who are going to be impacted by this.

    It seems to me that this is a question of generational inequity and PM Steve has made it clear whose side he is on. Not enough young people vote for him I guess.

    • Gen-Ex Screwed Again says:

      “Boomers are going to be okay” – no, not a big chunk of them.

      People — even those who focus on how huge it is in total — forget that ‘The Baby Boom Generation’ encompasses about 20 years of cohorts (1946-66) and that the original, Douglas Coupland/David Foot definition of “Generation X” applied to those at the tail end of the Baby Boom gen: those born between 1960 and 66 — who actually comprise the biggest portion of them (there were more Canadians born in 1961 than in any other year: those people are all 50 to 51 years old, right now; you can see this ‘Pig in the Python’ in the population pyramid at http://www.footwork.com/pyramids.asp ).

      all of whom will be screwed out of between 11 months (if born Jan 1960) and the full 2 years (if born after Jan 31, 1962) of eligibility for Old Age Security.

      Even some of the Boomers born in the late ’50s (so, who are their early 50s) are affected: having to wait between one month (if born April or May 1958) and 11 months (if born in Dec.).

      (Handy chart at http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/03/29/budget-2012-federal-canada/ – specifically: http://nationalpostnews.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/image.jpg )

      Meanwhile, when/if all this kicks in, the older siblings (of which there typically will be several) of these late Boomers will have been collecting — or at least be eligible for — since the day they turned 65.

      Of course, many of them won’t need it, then, and it’ll be clawed back, because these are the same older siblings who gobbled up all the good jobs and the homes, leaving the dregs & driving up the prices, respectively, for the ones in their wake.

      A lot of Gen Xers never did get their footing – the recession hit in the 90s when they finished their extended education, and the federal civil service hiring freeze & ‘jobless recovery’ followed – and many of them likely could dearly use that money when they turn 65.

      But Harper, in his infinite vindictiveness, has decided to make them, his peers, work in McJobs like WalMart greeters for another two years — likely because they were mean to him in school.

  8. Greg Boyce says:

    We live in a Tory run world which is if you are not contributing to the GDP you are not of value. I know being 57 it does not apply to me I will get the old age pension at 65. What it will be hard on are the labour intensive work that some may not be able to continue with to 67? In my opinion people work to much and what for, we all die in the end without enjoying our last few years of leasure. I did not vote Conservative in the last election or any other election and I will never vote for them in future. I don’t know if an other politilcal party can role back this damage. At least I hope when another party comes in power this isn’t written in stone.

    We are all human being and we deserved a reasonable retirement. Some fools like to work till they drop what about the sessible ones who what to enjoy there last years in leasure.

    • smelter rat says:

      You are completely full of shit as usual Gord. The bar for eligibility for CPP Dis is very very high. Many disabled Canadians never qualify.

      • Steve T says:

        If the bar is too high on CPP Dis, then fix that. Don’t push it off to other programs which are not meant to address the issue.

  9. Dave W. says:

    There was never any reason to change it other than the fact Cons hate social assistance in any form. For those who want to believe the lies spouted by the government, why don’t you ask to have your OAS moved back to the age of 67. As for me, I’d rather stick with the truth and have OAS at 65.

    • Tim Sullivan says:

      If there are such sound reasons, and the Parliamentary Budget Officer believes otherwise from a sustainability perspective, why was it not discussed during the election? Instead we heard a lot how coalition governments are undemocratic. Something(s) were undemocratic, and coalitions among the elected is not one of them.

  10. David_M says:

    Gees Warren, what do you think of this?!

    http://calgarygrit.blogspot.ca/2012/04/not-raes-day.html

  11. Tim says:

    The reforms to OAS and the OAS supplement are an outrageous attack on younger Canadians and especially on less fortunate younger Canadians. Older voters (Conservatives) have been spared. There is no way this will upset any significant part the Conservative base.

    If the OAS really needs reforming, then it should be done now, with the participation of the largest proportion of the population, the baby boomers. The more fair solution that jumps out is to start clawing back more of the money from the better off if there actually is a problem. But that would mean political risk.

    The CPP should be left alone, but as someone pointed out above, we Gen Xers know it’s just a matter of time before someone makes the “necessary adjustments” to that one.

    Stephen Harper has taken a chicken shit, Conservative friendly, unfair approach to solving a problem that may or may not even exist. This is the politics of division practised with 100% of the naked aggression those words imply. And I’m betting he’s going to get away with it.

  12. Tim Sullivan says:

    Elections Canada leaked the average life expectancy of newborns, no doubt.

  13. frmr disgruntled Con now Happy Lib says:

    Im one of the lucky ones…..my HarperTime*(tm) is only an extra 9 months…….Pity the poor bastid who is just hanging on by his fingernails who has to work the full extra two years….

    *I suspect this will become part of the Canadian lexicon….something akin to “Bennett Buggy”….

  14. What’s the life expectancy for neo-liberals?

  15. Anne Peterson says:

    All Canadians contribute to ALL funding Gord. It’s not really Harper’s money. How I would like to see you wait tables for 10 bucks an hour until you are 67.

    • Tim says:

      Hear hear.

    • MCBellecourt says:

      Put Gord in an extended care home caring for a dozen seniors or more full time in 12 hour shifts. He wouldn’t be able to handle it for two weeks, never mind another two years. He’s welcome to the crummy pay in the private homes, too.

    • Paul says:

      It would seem to me that anyone who waits tables for $10 an hour until age 67 is a little lacking in the ambition, drive and/or motivation departments. That said, I know waitresses and bartenders who go home with $200 in tips after a busy night so I’m not even sure why I’m supposed to feel sorry for such a person.

      I worked in the foodservice industry for 5 years in my late teens/early 20s (dishwasher then cook) and while the money was very good for a guy living at home with his parents, seeing guys pushing 50 and still slugging their guts out in those jobs was all the incentive I needed to make something better of myself.

  16. Joey Rapaport says:

    Completely agree, I’m 34 and will be switching my vote to either Liberal or NDP, whoever promises to reverse it and who has the best chance of winning.

  17. Anne Peterson says:

    Not everyone is blessed with or given the same advantages. If they were there wouldn’t be anyone to do any of the minimum wage jobs, but there are, aren’t there?

  18. kenn2 says:

    late to this, sorry, but is raising the retirement age not a clear indication that our current society is FAILING to improve the lot of mankind? (one-percenters excepted, apparently)

    Colour me naive, but I always thought that it was a central goal of society to make things better for everyone, and that this was a natural outcome of sensible governance and a healthy economy. Shorter work week, free education, earlier retirement. Where did that go?

    So, what happened? Why is this news being treated as inevitable, instead of maybe the clearest possible evidence that society is only benefiting a few, not the majority?

    Every comment I’ve heard that says that raising the retirement age is necessary and reasonable, has come from people who have the wealth to retire when they so choose. Let them eat cake and keep working.

  19. Bill says:

    I have not and do not have the time to read through all the comments about how this Government is deciding that Canada’s seniors are second class citizens.

    In the last week, I have had two experiences where an uncle of mine, who is now 75 years old and who has not worked for many ears because of a nervous breakdown when I was still young and he was younger than I was now. He received a notice about his pension being cut because of some spousal relationship. Such a a load of crap that could only have been planned unless a human keyed in the wrong SIN.

    After three days of running around with that today my Mother who has been a widow since the age of 50 and now 82 going 83 is told that her OAS is going to drop from what it was at about 11K down to a bit lower than 7k …

    Harper’s form of gereontolocide has to stop. I unfortunately, have been screwed by our system as well. Paide in to UI for nearly 22 years, but because I decided to try to find better options abroad and never applied, I’m a black sheep, new immigrants have have easier than I do. Some are good people, some should have never been admitted to this country and some of our one people who are hear abuse immigrants (at times their own spouses) worse than animals. There is one fellow Canadian that I would love to have his citizen striped from him because of how many women from other countries he as abused and humiliated, he has abandoned his spouses and the Harper Government believes the lying SOB.

    I now have a mother who never got squat form the Canadian government when my father died when I was 16.. I got squat, couldn’t even find a grief counselor. The government never gave a shit. They put the onus on the company my father worked for. The shock at the time was so great that unless we got help from someone couldn’t do it ourselves. Now the the damn Neo-Con Harper, is trying to screw seniors over. I think Harper is such a scum, and as are most of his MP’s. He was the devil from the Reform Party that in all honesty has screwed any type of normal political relationship with the populace. I am pissed, but having voted as a Tory in the past, forget my vote Mr. CrimeMinister. You have saddled up to our big southern neighbour. The kiss ass style. You want us to extradite we will.. In any case I had to vent. I’ really pissed off at the way Harper and his Neo-Con freaks have decided to start targeting those lest fortunate.

    I have always paid my taxes, no one in our family has never abused the Social Welfare Net, but now, all of a sudden I hear and witness a lot of BS. A lot of, what I would consider, purposely aimed mistakes to see how many fall through the cracks and we can take back from them.

    Mr. Harper your government polices suck on many levels. Fortunately the governments that proceeded you put in good laws regarding banking and fiscal policy. Now don’t you go taking credit for it all on the International Scene. For you to take credit for the Bank of Canada’s policies is wrong. How about you cut your staff by 30%, a bunch yes folks who have been feeding at the government trough, before cutting the pensions of seniors in their later years.

    While I had once been a Tory supporter. Mr. Harper I have lost belief in your form of government.!

    I’m simply too pissed at what I have experienced lately.

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