"Why is Canada on its way to losing its soul?"

Colin MacLean
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NDP critic hears frank opinions on senior’s benefits

Local NDP MPs Jack Harris (left) and Ryan Cleary (right) flank Irene Mathyssen, NDP critic for seniors, during a public meeting in St. John’s Sunday. — Photo by Colin MacLean/The Telegram

It was a forum filled with strong emotions — fear and frustration chief among them.

It was also a meeting filled with strong statements that were heartfelt and genuine.

Such as this one from Jeannie Murphy, a 57-year-old long-term care nurse.

“Every day I go to work and I see my future,” said Murphy. “But I see something more important. I see seniors who don’t have enough money, after their needs are paid for in long-term care, to take their children to lunch — to get their hair done. And we should be fighting damn mad that this is happening. Because it (will be) us. 

“If we do not want this to happen then we should not let it happen. It’s up to us. It’s the power of the people.”

Or this one from Muhammed Mazir:  “Why is Canada on it’s way to losing its soul?” asked Mazir.

“We tend to give more and more to the rich and less and less to the poor. The income gap between the rich and the poor is increasing, not falling.”

“Same for the people below the poverty line. So why is this happening? What needs to be done? What can we collectively do?”


Anger, fear part of reaction to proposed changes


Or this comment from Marilyn Reid:

“I’m so tired of going to meetings and having the same group of people all the time. So I think the real challenge for us ... is how do we get out to people. How do I go out to church groups and talk about these issues ... that’s what I would really like to think about,” said Reid.

On and on they went for two hours.

People spilling out their heart’s fears and their anger.

It was exactly what Irene Mathyssen was looking for.

Mathyssen, an NDP MP from Ontario, is critic for seniors for Canada’s Official Opposition.

Over the past few weeks she has been travelling across the country holding town-hall type meetings and asking Canadians what they think about some of the changes the federal Conservatives have warned are coming for the Old Age Security program. General comments regarding seniors were also welcomed.

 Mathyssen held her Newfoundland and Labrador meeting Sunday in St. John’s. Flanked by her two local NDP MP colleagues, Jack Harris and Ryan Cleary, she spoke to a crowd of about 50 people at the Battery Hotel.

“It’s very important for me to have the perspective from all across the country. Because I want to help create a policy paper, with the help of my caucus, that truly meets the needs of seniors from coast to coast to coast,” said Mathyssen.

“As you saw from today we have incredible wisdom in all of our communities. So I’m so grateful to be here and I’m so grateful for all the input,” she said.

Most of the people who gathered to hear Mathyssen speak were on the home stretch to becoming seniors themselves, if they weren’t already there, but there were also a few people in the their 20s, 30s and 40s dotting the crowd.

The presence of young people is proof positive any changes to the old age safety net that exists in Canada is a concern, not just for people close to retirement, but to all Canadians, she said.

That’s what she’s been hearing throughout her travels, she added.

“I’m hearing basically the same things from coast to coast ... people were saying basically the same things. They’ve made contributions all their lives, they expected that there must be something there to ensure economic security.”

Mathyssen’s countrywide tour is a direct reaction to comments made by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Human Resources Minister Diane Finley.

Finley has confirmed a detailed plan to reform the Old Age Security program, an important part of some retirees’ income, will appear in the upcoming federal budget.

 Harper said recently the program is unsustainable in its present form and needs to be changed or risk failing.

In a recent speech, Finley targeted her sales pitch for reorganizing the program to young people.

“We will need to ensure that our government has the fiscal room to meet the various needs of an aging population ... without putting an undue tax burden on younger generations,” said Finley.

While other countries have acted to increase the age of eligibility to keep in line with aging populations, Canada has stood still, she said.

“It’s ticking along as if things haven’t changed demographically in 50 years.

The leading option is to gradually raise the age of eligibility to 67 from today’s 65, beginning in a few years.

Other options could include changes to the clawback rules, which require individuals earning more than $69,000 a year to start paying back their OAS benefits.

There has been no official word from the government on exactly what changes voters can expect in budget.

With files from The Canadian Press


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Recent comments

  • David
    February 27, 2012 - 11:52

    It's all Harper's fault...even though the fleecing of the public and the systematic draining of the money trough started 2 or 3 decades ago, and even though the public blatantly knew it was happening, it is all Harper's fault. Why? Because that's how pathetically stupid we are.

  • sealcove
    February 27, 2012 - 09:29

    Must say you have a wonderful attitude to hell with everyone else is you answer

  • what next
    February 27, 2012 - 08:58

    leave the retirement age at 65.. lets deal with government and senators pensions first...some people retire before 65, some retire at 65 some retire after 65. not everyone lives to retire. not everyone lives into their 80's and 90's. a few years ago the rules reguarding Canada Pension changed where as if you claim Canada Pension before you turn 65 you receive less $$ then if you claimed Canada pension before this change came into effect. you always received less if you claimed CP early but with this new change you receive even less again. compliments of the Harper Govt i believe

  • Canada is not losing it soul
    February 27, 2012 - 08:16

    Canada is not losing it soul, but those of us who are well off and who pay more into the system are sick of getting less and less. How does cutting my OAS because I make more than 69K logical when I pay more taxes than those who make less than 69K? SHould I not get more because I put in more? Why should one who paid LESS taxes get more than me? I would rather see the system abolished before those of us who put in the most get screwed. I understand that there are seniors that are having trouble making ends meet, but cheating me is not the solution. And for the seniors in poverty, shame on their children for letting this be. I have been putitng money aside for my parent's retirement for years now, just in case they have issues. I have never told them about this. They have their pensions, CPP, RRSPs and so on, but just to be safe, I have been putting money aside for them. What are the parents of the seniors in poverty doing? Did they go to school and get an edcuation that would lead to a job that would allow them to provide for their parent's retirement? I did. Anyway, those of you who think that giving the least benefit to those of pay the most into the system is a solution are in for a rude awakening. If my OAS gets clawed back a few hundred dollars, then I will find a way to make back the money. Maybe I will fire an unskilled worker and replace them with a student who makes less. Or maybe I will close an office specifically to put people out of work just to undermine the tax base. I would do this not to hurt the people, but rather to hurt the tax base that give the most to those who put in the least. The workers are collateral damage. At the end of the day, there is an opposite reaction for every action. If the government enacts policies to give less to those who put in the most, those of us who are upset will push back, and hurt the government in the pocket.