PARRSBORO – The age of eligibility for Old Age Security (OAS) is going up from 65 to 67 in Canada, but the changes will not affect those who are retiring or about to retire today, according to Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley MP Scott Armstrong.
Armstrong, who made Parrsboro the 11th stop on his tour of “town hall meetings” in communities around his riding on Oct. 11, explained the OAS plans in detail as part of his presentation before opening up to questions from the modest gathering at the local legion.
“It’s not the easiest and most popular thing to do, but I believe it’s the right thing to do,” said Armstrong, who explained that the changes will only affect those born in 1958 or later, and will not take effect until 2023.
He explained that the social program was well funded when the baby boomers were part of the country’s working population, a time when as many as seven Canadians were working for every retired person. But, with the baby boomers now retiring, that ratio had dropped to 4:1 as recent as 2012, and will be down to 2:1 by 2030.
“It makes it very difficult for those two people working to continue to pay all the benefits for those who are retired,” said Armstrong. “We have to make changes to OAS now to make it sustainable for the future so, for people my age, the program will still be funded when we get there. If we don’t change it now, we will have a very difficult time making changes later.”
The MP’s presentation seemed to go over well with the crowd, which was made up of many senior citizens, as well as many candidates in the upcoming municipal election. However, audience member Christopher Welsh unleashed an angry tirade on Armstrong during the question and answer period, criticizing the government for being hard on senior citizens while enjoying their own lucrative MP pension plan.
Canadian taxpayers now contribute $24.36 for every $1 contributed by an MP into an MP’s pension account. Further, unlike normal pension plans, this fund is not invested in the market, but is simply credited with 10.4 per cent annual interest, courtesy of the taxpayer.
“Old folks have to pay taxes, when you vote for your own pension plan,” said Welsh. “Those veterans fought for us. I’d like to know why you can index their pensions, but you get a pension.”
Armstrong, who does not yet qualify for the MP pension (a member has to be elected for at least six years,) admitted the MP pension plan is “much more lucrative than the average person could expect,” but that the government is committed to bringing the plan more in line with private sector pensions.
While some people got up and left as Welsh repeated his emotional outburst, Armstrong told him his concerns were well founded.
“Our commitment is we are going to fix that, and go more toward what you see in the private side, where every $1 the taxpayers contribute to my pension, I will contribute $1, as a 50-50 split,” he said.
Other issues discussed included the $25 billion shipbuilding contract won by the Irving shipyard in Halifax, which the MP said he hopes will not only create new jobs for the region, but will bring home many of our young workers who have moved to Western Canada.
He also pointed out that his riding is 285th out of Canada’s 308 ridings in terms of average income, an issue he is committed to working on.
“As soon as you leave the urban area of the riding and get into the rural, you actually see some of the poverty that seniors and young families face,” said Armstrong. “It’s one of the biggest challenges we face. One of my priorities as an MP is to work with municipal leaders to put infrastructure in place so we can attract good-paying jobs to our rural communities.”