When Stephen Harper announced that his government would be raising the eligibility age for Old Age Security (OAS) from 65 to 67, it was judged, except in conservative circles, as being unnecessary. The Parliamentary Budget Officer, the federal and provincial finance ministers’ Research Working Group, and numerous economists have all agreed Canada’s retirement system is sustainable and there is no need to raise the OAS eligibility age.
Many believe the crisis created by the Conservatives regarding the OAS is artificial, and is just part of the government’s austerity plan, that through corporate tax breaks will take money out of the pockets of working people and give it to the rich.
As the Harper government prepares to pass this controversial legislation as part of the Budget Bill C-38, what will it mean? According to a report released by Angela McEwan, a research associate with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the OAS and Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) combined currently provide one-third of the income of all seniors aged just over age 65, and fully one half of the incomes of seniors with individual incomes of less than $20,000. Raising the age of eligibility for OAS/GIS to age 67 would have a negative impact on the incomes of all seniors in the 65 to 67 age bracket, but by far the greatest impact would be on those who have little or no retirement savings and limited benefits from the Canada Pension Plan.
Forcing lower-paid workers to work from age 65 to 67 and depriving them of access to the OAS and the GIS, would mean that many seniors would experience significant reductions in income. To some degree, it would also force older workers to compete with younger workers for entry-level, part-time jobs.
Forcing Canadians to work full-time past age 65 is unfair, especially given the high probability that the jobs many older workers would be able to find would be part-time and low paid. If the government is serious about helping Canadians retire with dignity and without fear of poverty they should double CPP benefits which would take pressures of the OAS/GIS programs and would help, rather than punish, older Canadians.