Changes to pensions, long ways off: MP

Current generation of retirees don't have to worry about it, says Conservative representative

Seniors, rest easy, changes to the Old Age Security supplement won’t affect you, despite Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s raising of the topic last week in Switzerland.

“I think what he said was our government is committed to ensuring the retirement security of Canadians,” said Maple Ridge MP Randy Kamp, in Ottawa Monday for a new session of Parliament.

Kamp said there’s a need to ensure that Old Age Security will be available in the future as more baby boomers hit retirement age, but that those currently on pensions won’t see any changes. He’s been assuring pensioners who’ve been calling his office of that and says they’re relieved to hear that.

Currently, Old Age Security costs the government about $36 billion a year. By 2030, that will jump to $110 billion.

“So we need to find a way to be able to pay for that.”

Betty Levens, with the Ridge Meadows Seniors Society, doubted the government could take Old Age Security away from its current recipients, although she wonders what the next generation, who might not be able to collect as easily, will think.

The average monthly OAS is $508 a month and is given to low-income seniors as a supplement to their Canada Pension Plan. A Guaranteed Income Supplement of $491 monthly is also available for those earning less than $39,264.

The government, last July, hiked GIS for seniors with little or no income other than the Old Age Security by up to $600 per year for single seniors and up to $840 per year for couples.

One way to pare back payments would be to increase the eligibility age to beyond 65.

Kamp said the pension was an important issue that had to be addressed and not ignored, but that any changes would be preceded by a substantial notification period.

The government is currently going through a cost-cutting exercise to reduce its deficit and is even looking at pensions paid to Members of Parliament.

“I expect there could be some changes there,” he said.

According to a January report from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, taxpayers chip in $23 in subsidies for every dollar that MPs contribute to their pension plans.

After serving six years, the average MP’s pension is $54,693 a year.

Brian Rice, president of the Liberal riding association for Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission, said health care, not OAS, will be the expensive item, and Harper never said in his campaign last year that he’d cut pensions.

According to a Liberal news release, by the time the baby-boom retirement wave peaks around 2031, the share of Canada’s GDP spent on OAS will

increase only 0.73 % over today’s level.

“There are better ways of dealing with budgetary issues, which they created, than put our most vulnerable population at risk of poverty,” Rice added.

“If you want to save money, don’t buy as many (F-35) jets. Don’t build as many prisons.”

The government is buying 65 of the stealth fighters, which are already the topic of cost overruns and quality.

One possible target of economizing is the CBC. According to Twitter on Monday, four Conservative MPs were trying to completely remove its funding.

Kamp though said CBC is currently receiving the most money it’s ever received, but that every government agency is being considered for cutbacks.

“I haven’t heard of anybody seriously say it shouldn’t be funded at all.”

This session just begun will see the passage in the Senate of the abolition of the long gun registry so hunting rifles no longer have to be registered.