Ontario To Consider Hearings Into OAS Changes

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OLD AGE SECURITY CHANGES ONTARIO HEARING
Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan thinks his federal counterpart should leave public attacks aside and instead focus on working together with Ontarians. (Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail/CP) | CP


Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan thinks his federal counterpart should leave public attacks aside and instead focus on working together with Ontarians.

In an interview airing Saturday on CBC Radio's The House, federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty told host Evan Solomon that Ontario is a "badly managed province, it's been mismanaged for eight or nine years now."

Flaherty repeated those comments throughout the day on Friday, in other media interviews, and again during a speech to the Canadian Club of Toronto.

The luncheon speech was touted as an opportunity for Flaherty to promote the budget he had tabled the day before, which he did — but not without criticizing the Ontario government for its own recent budget and its fiscal track record since Liberal Dalton McGuinty took over the premier's office.

When asked to comment on Flaherty's attacks against him, Duncan told Solomon, "I don't know what prompts Mr. Flaherty to have these little temper-tantrums."

"I think we should leave these little fights aside and work together the way we did during the downturn. I think that's what Canadians and Ontarians expect," Duncan said.

Impact of federal changes on the provinces

Proposed changes to Old Age Security and the federal guaranteed income supplement will mean that some seniors will have to turn to the provinces for additional social assistance starting in 2023.

Duncan told Solomon, "I'm thinking we may even have hearings across the province to get people's input into these changes."

When Solomon asked Duncan whether there was already a system in place to compensate the provinces, Duncan said "no."

Flaherty conceded "it is a long way out," but the federal government "will compensate the provinces for costs they would not have otherwise incurred if we had not changed the age of eligibility."

"We have made the commitment in the budget, in writing, explicitly," Flaherty said.

Duncan told Solomon that what worries Ontario is "the hamfisted approach to jails, where they are not providing us with compensation, forcing additional costs in what I would largely call a very political step."

Duncan has been critical of the federal government's controversial omnibus crime bill, which would see the provinces foot the bill for the building of new prisons.

Ontario has estimated Bill C-10 will cost the province up to $1-billion in prison costs alone.

NDP denounces proposed changes to OAS

New Democratic Leader Tom Mulcair also denounced the proposed changes to what he called "people's retirement incomes."

Mulcair told Solomon that the work done by Kevin Page, the parliamentary budget officer, "demonstrated clearly that the system was sustainable."

Raising the age of eligibility means the Conservatives are "taking money out of people's pockets, money they had counted on to retire," the Opposition leader said. "You're going to go on welfare. That's what the Conservatives are telling Canadians who are working hard all of their lives."

Flaherty said "this has nothing to do with pensions. The Canada Pension Plan is stable and solid for the next 75 years. This is a social program funded by Canadian taxpayers."

"We want to make sure that it is sustainable, that it exists in the future, and by bumping the age of eligibility we can be assured that that will happen," Flaherty said.

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