02/01/2012 07:55 EST | Updated 02/02/2012 12:03 EST

Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe, NDP MP, Says Pension Debate Signals Major Social Restructuring


OTTAWA — A 27 year-old NDP MP is urging young Canadians to pay attention to a pension debate heating up on Parliament Hill, suggesting that a fundamental restructuring of society is taking place.

Rookie MP Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe told The Huffington Post Canada she’s personally concerned by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s purported plans to limited Old Age Security payments.

“As a young person, I am worried and I’m concerned because we are talking about what kind of society we want not just the type of pension changes for the seniors of tomorrow,” she said in an interview Wednesday.

Blanchette-Lamonthe, the NDP’s deputy critic for seniors, will table an opposition day motion Thursday calling on the House of Commons to reject “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 (OAS) and calls on the government to make the reduction and eventual elimination of seniors’ poverty a cornerstone of the next budget.”

The Liberals and the Bloc Quebecois say they support the motion but it won’t pass a scheduled for vote on Monday without the support of the majority Conservative government.

“Mr. Harper has made vague announcements that lead us to believe that the age of eligibility for Old Age Security will be raised, so this is a motion that aims to open the discussion on the topic to ensure that our most vulnerable seniors don’t get stuck with a bill,” the MP for Pierrefonds-Dollard said.

Harper told an audience of power elites in Davos, Switzerland, last week that the federal government would be looking at changes to ensure that the retirement income system is sustainable for the next generation.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said on CBC Wednesday that the Tories are looking at a range of options to ensure the sustainability of the retirement system.

“There will certainly be nothing in this budget that will affect anyone receiving any benefits, OAS or any other kinds of individual benefits from the Government of Canada at the present time … but we are looking at long term sustainability so we could take some, stress we could, in the budget say alright what are some of the things that could be done in the future in order to make sure that these programs are sustainable in the long term. This is just good government. This is just looking down the road,” he said.

Details haven’t been finalized because cabinet hasn’t discussed the issue, one source said.

“What we keep hearing from this government is that we need to act now in the interest of future generations, and this is really quite insulting,” Blanchette-Lamothe told HuffPost. “I am part of that generation that will eventually need those services.”

“We need to stand up right now and defend our programs,” she said. “It’s not a debate we should have in five or 10 years, we need to have it right not to ensure that we don’t lose what we have now.”

Whatever action the federal government takes could have negative consequences on the health care system and financially squeeze the provinces who will be called upon to provide greater social assistance to those seniors who can’t stay in the workforce any longer and can’t afford to make ends meet without OAS, Blanchette-Lamothe said.

Unlike the environment and education, pension funds aren’t a topic that naturally grab the attention of young people but it needs to be discussed, she said.

“We can talk about it in terms that more easily appeal to young people – in terms of social justice, in terms of reducing the gap between the rich and the poor, in terms of protecting our programs and services, with that vocabulary, I’m convinced that everyone — those who are getting ready to retire and those who are a long way from it — will be interested,” she said.

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