Garry MacDonald says his old age pension is secure, but the next wave of seniors may not be so lucky.
“I know lots of people coming up who’ll lose what we had,” said MacDonald, 67.
MacDonald made the comment during a rally at the corner of Clarence Street and Icomm Drive on Friday afternoon attended by about 40 people. The demonstrators demanded income stability for seniors.
With RRSPs and corporate pensions all but “annihilated” by the recession, MacDonald said the vision of retiring comfortably has vanished for most workers. Raising the age of eligibility for old age security from 65 to 67, as the Conservative government has done, is insult to injury, he said.
“There are so many people who are just at the poverty level,” he said. “I feel so sorry for the seniors who’ve worked hard all their lives, had jobs, raised families, and now aren’t able to feed themselves. There’s no need for that.”
London-Fanshawe NDP MP and seniors critic Irene Mathyssen attended Friday’s rally. Because the number of seniors on the pension rolls will return to normal following a glut of baby boomers, the government did not need to raise the age for OAS eligibility, Mathyssen said.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer and office of the chief actuary also found that the Canada Pension Plan was “secure” and able to support seniors under current eligibility rules, she said.
“(Changing the age) is a long-term solution for a problem that doesn’t exist,” Mathyssen said.
In a press release, Brant MP Phil McColeman defended his government’s record on seniors.
“Canada’s seniors have made incredible contributions to building this great country and our government is committed to investing in programs to support their well-being, quality of life and participation in our communities,” McColeman said.
McColeman cited more funding for seniors programs like New Horizons, the top-up benefit to the guaranteed income supplement, which he said helped 680,000 of Canada’s most vulnerable seniors, and more than $2.5 billion in tax relief for seniors through initiatives such as pension income splitting as proof of his party’s commitment to seniors.
Regarding OAS eligibility, McColeman stressed that current seniors will not be affected.
“Changes are limited to those 55 and younger and will be phased in very gradually by 2029,” he said.
While the Conservative’s infusion of $300 million into the guaranteed income supplement helped seniors at highest risk of poverty, Mathyssen said it didn’t go far enough.
“For $800 million, they could have lifted every senior out of poverty, instead of the most desperate,” she said. “We can afford to do that.”
Income splitting does “absolutely nothing” for single seniors who have no income, Mathyssen said.
Instead of cutting corporate taxes, the government should focus on seniors, whom Mathyssen said have become “scapegoats” in a time of fiscal restraint.
“Seniors aren’t a burden,” she said. “They’re an asset to the community.”