Budget 2012

The Federal Budget will be presented by Minister Flaherty on March 29th.  This Budget will be primarily about reducing the federal deficit through cuts in programs and downsizing of the federal civil service. 

It is doubtful if the Budget will address disability issues specifically.  There may be some reference to the Registered Disability Savings Plan that addresses the reluctance of financial institutions to open an RDSP for persons who they deem not to have the capacity to manage a plan.

Following the Budget, Government MP’s will return to their constituencies from April 9th -20th to “sell” the budget and build support for its proposals.    Opposition MP’s will present their criticisms of the government’s actions.  This is an opportunity for us, Canadians with disabilities, to present our concerns to our Member of Parliament.

An Emerging Issue:  Old Age Security (OAS) and Raising the Age of Eligibility

Most Canadians are aware of the comments of the Prime Minister and Minister of Human Resources Development Canada in regard to increasing the age of eligibility for the Old Age Security from 65 to 67.  The general argument presented is:

  • the current system is not sustainable because of aging baby boomers and increased life expectancy,
  • other countries have already raised their retirement age (United States, Britain, Italy, Finland, Portugal, Sweden- most are phasing in the change over time- ex.  by 2020 or 2024),
  • making people work longer will address to some extent anticipated labour shortages, although questions are being raised as to whether this change will simply keep unemployment rates high for young people.

CCD does not suggest that we try to counter these arguments,  we can leave that to the economists.   But if you are looking for ways of refuting the not sustainable argument, or demographic information check out “Old Age Insecurity?”  By Ken Battle, Sherri Torjman and Michael Mendelson from the Caledon Institute of Social Policy, February 2012.

NOTE:  It is likely that the increase in the age of eligibility for Old Age Security will be phased in over time.  It would be political suicide for a government to change the rules for those nearing retirement.

Making Our Issues Known

What we collectively must do is address how this change might affect persons with disabilities.  Below are some of the key comments or questions to be considered.

Points for consideration:

Canadians with disabilities disproportionately live in poverty.  Between 45 and 60 percent  of those on social assistance (welfare) are persons with disabilities and this number continues to increase.  Many Canadians with disabilities have been and will continue to be excluded from the current labour market unless significant new initiatives are created to remove barriers to employment.

  1. Old Age Security coupled with the Guaranteed Income Supplement benefit is better than any social assistance program in Canada.  Sadly many Canadians with disabilities look forward to turning 65 because they will have a better income benefit.
  2. Increasing the age of entitlement for OAS will force persons with disabilities to live in poverty longer.
  3. OAS, while the foundation of Canada’s retirement policy, does not exist in isolation.  In fact many other benefits are designed to work in tandem with OAS.
    1. Will raising the age of entitlement trigger a change in the Old Age Exemption in the Income Tax Act?
    2. Will Long Term Disability policies now extend benefits to age 67?  Presently LTD claims end when people become eligible for OAS.  Will this change increase premiums?
    3. Will Canada Pension Plan benefits also change the age of eligibility?  Will this apply to both the early retirement and full benefit?
    4. How will provinces respond to persons with disabilities and others remaining on social assistance for a longer period of time?  Will it result in reducing benefits or limiting future improvements?
  4. Many people with disabilities have a lesser life expectancy.  Should an exemption be made for persons with disabilities in regard to a change in age eligibility for OAS and CPP?  The other long term option as advocated by CCD is for a greater federal role in a basic income support program for persons with disabilities who have been excluded from the labour market?  A first step would be making the Disability Tax Credit refundable.
  5. Proposals for reform of Canada Pension Plan include allowing people to claim CPP early (presently age 60) and continuing to work.  They would continue to pay premiums but should they become disabled they would not be eligible for CPPD because they have taken CPP.  CPPD is a better benefit.  Disability increases with age, working people will still pay a full premium but not be eligible for full benefits (CPPD).  This appears unfair.

Taking Action: Making Our Voice Heard

  1. Following the Budget, talk, write, or email your MP about these concerns/questions.
  2. CCD will send a letter to all MP’s based on the issues outlined above.
  3. Talk to media, radio talk shows, local reporters, letters to editor about these concerns.
  4. Inform other poverty activists of our concerns.