Local MP Atamanenko slams Harper's Old Age Security review
Alex Atamanenko, MP for BC Southern Interior, is angered by the Harper government’s recent announcement that the Conservatives are looking at making changes to the Old Age Security pension. The government claims that the present system is becoming unsustainable because of the aging demographics of Canadians. Harper’s surprise plan included a proposal to raise the age a person can start to collect OAS from 65 to 67.
“The prime minister is floating this idea,” said Atamanenko. “I completely disagree with what he’s doing. This is wrong. Any kind of spending is based on priorities. Why would he cut pensions to seniors or raise eligibility when at the same time he is proposing to give another round of corporate tax cuts to people who don’t need it?” said the NDP MP.
Atamanenko pointed out that the government’s own experts are baffled by the Harper government’s actions. “Several pension policy analysts who prepared reports for the government concluded that Canada’s public pension system does not face major financial sustainability challenges. Unfortunately, the Conservatives won’t listen to advice they don’t like, and they aren’t listening to Canadians,” he said.
The prime minister chose to break the news about the government’s review of OAS during an address to the delegates at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. He said that the growth in Canada’s aging population “constitute a threat to the social programs and services that Canadians cherish.”
The government says that OAS will cost $108 billion by 2030, up from $36.5 billion today. But critics say Harper is ignoring an important fact—that the economy will also grow over the next 20 years.
While Harper has since insisted that no immediate changes are coming and current seniors “will not lose a penny,” public reaction, especially from senior’s groups, has been largely critical of the Conservative announcement.
“People have been calling and writing my riding offices with their concerns about these changes,” said Atamanenko. “When you’ve made plans for your retirement and have already lost a pile of money from other savings being hit hard, it seems like the prime minister is hitting them again.”
The results of an internal survey of members of the Canadian Association of Retired Person (CARP) show that more than 60 percent of 3,000 respondents strongly disagreed or disagreed with the Harper announcement. “Our members are mostly retired,” said a CARP representative. “They themselves already get their OAS. Their reaction is about the principle.”
“I believe that Canada should be taking practical, affordable measures to lift seniors out of poverty—not make it worse by slashing Old Age Security,” said Atamanenko. “The New Democrats want to strengthen pensions, not weaken them.”
The NDP will use its opposition day on February 2 to try to goad Conservatives into revealing their plans to reform Old Age Security. Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe, Quebec MP and the NDP’s deputy critic for seniors, will introduce the motion: “That this House rejects calls by the Prime Minister to balance the Conservative deficit on the backs of Canada’s seniors by means such as raising the age of eligibility for Old Age Security and calls on the government to make the reduction and eventual elimination of seniors’ poverty a cornerstone of the next budget.”
This article is a press release from Alex Atamanenko’s office.