03/01/2012 04:55 EST | Updated 05/01/2012 05:12 EDT

Harper's OAS Skimping Will Have Big Effects


The federal government has announced that changes will be coming to Old Age Security (OAS). By suggesting cuts or other such changes to the OAS the government is cutting away at the security of seniors in this country. It is in fact asking the poor to pay, while giving tax breaks to the rich. The government should be taking practical, affordable measures to lift every senior out of poverty, not making the situation worse with threats to slash Old Age Security.

The NDP's deputy seniors' critic Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe, pensions critic Wayne Marston and I have embarked on a series of town hall meetings to hear from Canadians from coast to coast to coast on this issue. In the last couple of weeks we have been to Victoria, Vancouver, Saskatoon, London ON, St. John's, Quebec City, Montreal, Rimouski, Bathurst, Hamilton, and Halifax.

We will be visiting Gatineau, Winnipeg, Edmonton and the GTA in the near future, and will continue to listen to what Canadian families have to say on this issue in order to have their voices heard in Parliament.

Those who will be most impacted are people who have struggled to make ends meet, their whole lives. The reason they have not saved is that there was no money to save. Every penny was spent on the necessities of life, raising kids or looking after a family.

The truth is that OAS is economically beneficial to all of society -- seniors on OAS spend all of their money in their neighborhoods. That is money reinvested in our economy, in small businesses that in turn create jobs. OAS is not a burden on the economy; it is an investment in our economy. Seniors are not the liability this government pretends; they are an asset and contribute to the well-being of all of us.

The money to support seniors is readily available. We have the money to lift seniors out of poverty in the present and the money to address additional expenses the government will face in the future as our population continues to age. Instead of investing in Canada, the Conservatives chose to saddle the treasury and Canadians with corporate tax giveaways in the range of $72 billion without the guarantee of one new job, millions in investments in new prisons, and the ballooning costs of new fighter jets.

Seniors represent one of the fastest growing populations in Canada today. The number of seniors in Canada is projected to increase from 4.2 million in 2005 to 9.8 million by 2036. With so many more seniors retiring in the years to come, we need to have the social safety net in place now to avoid dramatic increases in the rate of poverty in the future.

The Harper government's investments are far short of what we really need: investment in home care and long term care; investment in pharmacare; increased access to resources; appropriate and affordable housing; and investment in geriatric studies. It's abundantly clear; investments in our community and in our families are what we need to prosper and to ensure the security of our social safety net.

Our actions now will have an impact on how we treat our seniors in the future. If we fail to invest and make plans for the aging population, it is our own retirement that will be in jeopardy. Future seniors will not have the choice to age in their homes and will not have access to the care that is required.

Seniors have worked hard all of their lives. They have played by the rules. Now they simply want access to the programs and services that their hard-earned tax dollars helped to build.