Protecting OAS for future generations

The Old Age Security Act came into force in 1952, replacing the provincially-run, means-tested old age benefit system that came before it.
Since then, various changes have taken place to OAS including:  the drop in age of eligibility from 70 to 65, phased-in between 1965-1969; the establishment of the Guaranteed Income Supplement in 1967; and a full cost-of-living indexation on a quarterly basis by 1973. 
Today, OAS is available to any Canadian citizen or permanent resident 65 years or older who has lived in the country for at least 10 years and pays a maximum benefit of $540.12 a month for seniors with less than $69,562 in annual net income, which gradually becomes less until it disappears for those earning more than $112,772.
As the centerpiece of the country's public pension system, OAS is funded entirely by government revenues - in other words, taxpayers like you and me.
As a result, over the years, governments in Canada have been faced with figuring out a way to ensure our retirement system remains sustainable over the long term.
Unfortunately, it turned out to be the kind of discussion that was unpopular with voters and so, decisions have been avoided and put off until another day. 
Now in 2012, as the reality of a growing ageing population gets closer, we cannot put those considerations off any longer.
Last year alone, Canadian taxpayers paid out $72 billion through the pension system with every indicator telling us that it is only going to get more expensive.
The challenge facing OAS is that baby boomers will retire in greater numbers than usual and there will be fewer Canadians in the workforce to pay the taxes that support OAS. 
In the next 20 years, the number of Canadians over the age of 65 will increase from 4.7 million to 9.3 million, while the number of working taxpayers will decrease from 4 to 2.
If you also consider that the OAS program was built when Canadians were not living the longer, healthier lives they are today, it’s clear that we have to do something to make sure OAS is sustainable by 2030 and beyond. 
The question is do we do it now while we have time to adjust or do we leave it to the next generation to deal with when it becomes a financial crisis?
What a shame that any reasonable discussion that could be taking place in Parliament is being drowned out by the hysteria generated by the Opposition parties, causing serious anxiety among current pensioners.  It’s entirely unnecessary.
Not only has the Prime Minister made it clear that transfers to individuals and provinces will not be cut, including health care and social transfers, he has also been clear that there will be no changes to the benefits seniors currently receive or for those close to retirement. 
Furthermore, any changes that will be made to address the growth in the aging population will be done with substantial notice and a generous adjustment period to allow younger people time to adjust and plan for their retirement. 
Since 2006, this government has provided more benefits to seniors than ever:  we have significantly lowered taxes, providing $2.3 billion annually in additional tax relief through pension-income splitting and by increasing the age credit and we have increased the Guaranteed Income Supplement(GIS), the largest increase to the GIS in 25 years. 
But, it is clear that we all need to take responsibility for planning our retirement and it is even clearer that it is absolutely necessary our federal government leads by example, including a review of MP pensions.
Once again, there is only one taxpayer.  I am not alone when I say I prefer a government that is willing to ask the hard questions and be fiscally responsible now, so that a strong, stable retirement income system will be there for Canadians for generations to come.
Ron Cannan is the Member of Parliament for Kelowna-Lake Country

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About the Author

The Honourable Ron Cannan was first elected as Member of Parliament for Kelowna-Lake Country in January, 2006. He was subsequently elected in the 2008 and 2011 federal elections. He is a member of the Conservative Caucus.

On September 13th, 2012 Ron was summoned to be a member of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and will provide advice to the Government as a member of the Priorities and Planning Sub-Committee on Government Administration.

Ron successfully uses his experience and knowledge as a long-time Kelowna City Councillor and regional government representative to be an effective and enthusiastic champion for his riding and his constituents.

His greatest satisfaction comes from helping local organizations and citizens obtain the support they require from Ottawa. 

He is also dedicated to doing what it takes to ensure that the growing and vibrant communities in his riding continue to thrive and prosper.

He is proud of the partnership and cooperation between federal, provincial and municipal governments which have resulted in significant infrastructure projects including upgrades to Highway 97, expansion of the Kelowna International Airport, a new horticulture strategy for fruit growers, obtaining a full service passport office for Kelowna and addressing critical economic issues such as labour skills shortages.

He works closely with the local Chambers of Commerce and once a year arranges meetings for the Chamber with Cabinet Ministers and senior policy staff in Ottawa to move forward important local issues such as crime prevention and labour skills shortages.

He is also an ardent champion for important community initiatives including homelessness, mental health, women’s resources, and support of arts and culture.

On Parliament Hill, Ron has been a member of the Standing Committee on International Trade since 2006 supporting initiatives which will broaden the economic opportunities for local businesses and businesses Canada-wide.

In previous parliamentary sessions Ron has been a member of the Standing Committee for Government Operations and Estimates, Veteran’s Affairs, Human Resources and Social Development, the Scrutiny of Regulations Committee, and the Standing Committee for Fisheries and Oceans.

Ron is also involved in a variety of inter-parliamentary organizations: he is Vice Chair of the Canada-US Inter-Parliamentary Group, and a member of the Canada-Taiwan Friendship group.

As Chair of the Conservative Wine Caucus, Ron works with his colleagues across the country to promote the wine regions of Canada.  Ron tabled Motion 218(formerly Motion 601) which supports direct to consumer purchasing of Canadian wine. His motion became Bill C-311, sponsored by MP Dan Albas, seconded by Ron, which was passed into law on June 28th, 2012.

Prior to entering politics, Ron developed a diverse business background as a small business owner and had several years experience in marketing and sales management working with corporations including Coca-Cola, Costco and Corus Entertainment.

Very active in his community, Ron has been a Director for both the Central Okanagan Regional District and the Central Okanagan Hospital Board. Ron also served on the Okanagan University College Access to Training Advisory Board, the Glenmore Elementary School Parents Advisory Council, and the Kelowna Christian School Fund Raising Committee. He was co-founder of the Okanagan Volunteer Festival. Currently Ron is a member of the Sunrise Rotary Club of Kelowna and, along with his wife Cindy, was the honorary Chair of the 2012 Canadian Cancer Society Daffodil Ball.

Ron lives a family-oriented and active lifestyle with his wife Cindy. He is the proud father of three daughters and grandfather to three grandsons. His hobbies include music and sports.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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