COMMENT: Pensions are not only a seniors’ problem – Part 1
In our discussions about affordability, the topic of pensions is immediately brought forward. My office receives letters, emails and phone calls every day from people worried about their retirement security and about their children’s retirement future. They are not alone. Despite the fact that Canada is one of the richest countries in the world, over 250,000 seniors live in poverty and thousands more are barely making ends meet. In response, we have a Prime Minister who tells us that we have to accept less and that our children will have to expect less as well.
At the public forums in Oliver, my office organized to discuss pensions and the retirement future of the present work force, the vast majority of our audiences were retired seniors who know how hard it is to survive on their retirement incomes. Where are the voices of the younger generation? Do they think they are still too young to worry about their future? Maybe they are simply too busy surviving the present to worry about what’s coming.
The reality is that the future looks bleak and we have to start worrying about it now. Prime Minister Harper announced in January 2012 that the eligibility age for Old Age Security (OAS) would increase, effectively raising the Canadian retirement age from 65 to 67. By 2030, Conservative cuts to Old Age Security will cut $11 billion in retirement income from seniors. That amount represents $13,000 in retirement savings out of the pocket of every Canadian senior.
If you are planning to retire in 15 years or more, concerns about pension income is real. Combined with previous Liberal administration cuts to both CPP/QPP and OAS, a total of $26 billion has been taken away from Canadians’ retirement income. Additional Conservative cuts from provincial health care render the frontline health services unaffordable, and the closure of Veteran Affairs offices across the country is a slap in the face to all Canadian veterans. Canadians deserve better.
Only 38 percent of working Canadians have access to workplace pension plans. In the private sector only one in five Canadians has access to defined benefit pension plans, which are not transferable from one employer to another. Neither are they protected under present regulations. If an employer goes bankrupt, the pension money is used to cover the company’s debts.
Where does that leave the younger generation? Most of the jobs available in the present labour market are part-time and temporary contracts or unpaid internships. Young people cannot afford to put money into private pension funds or RRSPs because the high cost of living uses all of their financial resources. How can they possibly afford to put any money into Pooled Registered Pension Plans, as suggested by the Conservative government?
Our Pensions’ critic, Murray Rankin has met with people across the country to listen to their concerns. Many people are worried about their future and are uncertain if they will be able to make ends meet when they retire. My party will keep fighting for a more robust pension system and for retirement security for all Canadians. We will keep pushing for pension reform so that every Canadian can comfortably live on their pension instead of struggling to survive.