A public meeting was held at the Battery Hotel in St. John’s Sunday, Feb. 26th, to discuss the future of the Old-Age Security pension. St. John’s East MP Jack Harris and I joined Irene Mathyssen, federal NDP critic for seniors, who’s touring the country in response to speculation that the Conservative government may raise eligibility to age 67 from 65.
The following are quotes from the event:
“I doubt every word that comes out of Stephen Harper’s mouth.” — A senior.
“Canada is on the way to losing its soul.” — A senior.
“The person who is telling us this (pension changes are necessary) is either a liar or extremely stupid … we all know Stephen Harper isn’t stupid.” — A senior.
“After 25 years as an acute care nurse my body and soul were broken.” A 70-year old nurse against the idea of raising the retirement age.
“Our government is arrogant against its own people.” — A senior.
“Civil society is under attack by this government … it’s intended to atomize us … drive us apart as a people.” — A 20-something Occupy protester.
“Every day I go to work and I see my future.” A 57-year-old nurse commenting on the elderly patients she cares for and how most have little money.
“Will there be retirement when we reach the age of retirement?” — A 22-year-old Memorial University student.
“We have a government that doesn’t believe in government.” — Irene Mathyssen, NDP seniors critic.
The following are my opening remarks:
I wear a white wristband, and I have since it was given to me during the 2011 election.
The wristband says. “Make poverty history.”
I wear the wristband as a reminder of why I’m elected to office, and what my party stands for.
Too many of our seniors today live in poverty.
According to the Conference Board of Canada, 1.6 million seniors across the country live below the poverty line, and it is slowly and steadily getting worse.
The image that haunts me from the May 2011 federal election is that of the seniors I met at their doors, in the middle of the afternoon, in their winter coats.
They wore their winter coats inside their homes, decent homes in the suburbs of St. John's and Mount Pearl, because they could not afford to turn up the heat.
The No. 1 issue in my riding is seniors, people living on fixed incomes, people trying to make ends meet.
People are worried about their retirement years.
Lately, people are practically panicking about the thought of retirement.
The Conservative government has thrown out the idea of raising the age of eligibility for Old-Age Security to 67 from 65.
I gave a speech in the House of Commons earlier this month on Conservative Bill C 25 — an act relating to Pooled Registered Pension Plans.
I spoke against them, because pooled pension plans are not the solution for the retirement security of Canadians.
Because they amount to gambling even more of their retirement savings on failing stock markets.
There’s no guarantee how much of your money will be left when you retire.
Anyone who has watched their RRSPs nosedive in recent times knows how incredibly risky it is to tie savings to the stock market.
My party did not support the pooled Registered pension plans, because the Conservatives offered it up instead of taking real action to protect both existing pensions and enhance pension retirement security for those who lack a workplace pension plan.
An estimated 12 million Canadians do not have a workplace pension plan.
A New Democratic government would double the guaranteed Canada pension plan.
The CPP is a universal program for all Canadians, whether self-employed, in small or large businesses, or in the public or private sector.
Why give workers a savings scheme to roll the dice on their retirement when we could simply expand the CPP?
Participation in the CPP is mandatory, meaning its expansion would impact everyone.
No one would be left behind.
I conclude with this quote from a constituent in my riding, one of about a dozen who have written my office in recent days concerned about retirement and the Conservative agenda that’s transforming Canada into a warped shadow of itself:
“Young people do not stand a chance in this world. Everything we have worked so hard for to make things better for them is slowly being taken away. What a sad message we are sending.”