02/09/2012 05:49 EST | Updated 04/10/2012 05:12 EDT

Old Age Security Protests At 24 MPs' Offices


Seniors and members of the labour movement concerned about changes to Old Age Security staged peaceful sit-ins at the offices of 24 Conservative MPs in Ontario and New Brunswick on Thursday, with additional demonstrations in St. Johns.

Ontario Federation of Labour president Sid Ryan and 12 others stationed themselves in Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's constituency office in Whitby, Ont., for the afternoon. Ryan lives in Flaherty's riding.

"We've asked to speak with the minister, but we've been told he's unavailable," he said. "We're here to basically send a message to the Tories that the senior citizens, retirees, and soon-to-be-pensioners are really ticked off with what he's attempted to do with [Old Age Security]."

Calling themselves the blue-grey alliance, labour and seniors groups want to see increased contributions to the Canada Pension Plan, not cuts or clawbacks applied to OAS, Ryan said.

A police officer visited Flaherty's constituency office and told the group they could stay, as they were not causing any problems. The protests started around 1 p.m.

The group said it will organize a series of town halls to discuss the retirement income system, starting on March 7 in Flaherty's riding.

Most protests had concluded by the time the offices closed, with five MPs committing to later meetings to discuss concerns about OAS. MPs Eve Adams, Jeff Watson, David Tilson, Jay Aspen and Stephen Woodworth agreed to followup meetings.

Concerns around OAS

Questions about the government's plans for OAS began when Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a speech last month at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that the government would be looking at the sustainability of Canada's retirement system.

On Friday, Harper confirmed in an interview with Postmedia News the government was considering raising the eligibility threshold for OAS from the current age of 65. He did not specify the age to which it could be raised.

However, on Wednesday, Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page released a report saying the current system is sustainable, and may even be able to support a spending increase.

The federal budget is expected next month.

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