To the Editor:
Canada's Parliamentary Budget Officer (a person hand-picked by Stephen Harper himself) today lined-up with many other respected experts to say Canada's Old Age Security program is fundamentally sustainable, and does NOT require the cutbacks Mr. Harper is threatening.
Those threats began in a speech the Prime Minister gave last month in Switzerland. He has since confirmed he wants to hike the eligibility age for Old Age pensions from 65 to 67.
Mr. Harper claims Canada can't afford these pensions anymore. But he's wrong - experts for the University of Calgary, York University, UBC, the OECD, private sector firms, the government itself, and now the PBO - are all basically saying: "It ain't broke, so don't fix it!"
This controversy starkly exposes this government's priorities. They pump billions into bigger jails and costly fighter-jets, but they cut back on pensions and healthcare.
They preserve the most expensive tax preferences for the wealthy, but they chop the modest benefits of the most vulnerable. The Old Age pension pays just $540/month. Three-quarters of those receiving it live on less than $40,000/year. Without it, one-third of seniors could fall below the poverty line.
Delaying the pension doesn't miraculously make the human needs go away. Neither does it save much money. It just dumps the financial burden onto provincial welfare. And ultimately, there's only one taxpayer.
This past weekend, Mr. Harper came up with a new excuse for chopping pensions - he wants older people to work longer, whether they're physically up to it, or not.
Not only is this mean-spirited; it's also an admission of failure in labour markets.
Yes, we need a growing workforce. But Mr. Harper's dragooning of older people to fill the gaps - even against their will - assumes only the most mediocre gains from immigration and abject failure in preparing young Aboriginals to succeed in the mainstream of Canada's economy.
Ralph Goodale, MP, Wascana, SK.
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