CARP poll shows seniors unhappy with possible OAS changes

Together with the Guaranteed Income Supplement, Old Age Security is currently paid to all resident Canadians when they reach age 65. But last week, Stephen Harper announced there could be changes to Old Age Security, fueling speculation the government could increase the claim age to 67. He noted that as the boomer population ages, the number of people the system will have to support is going to double from its current 4.6 million to 9.3 million, which, without enough taxpayers to pay for such a swell, would bankrupt Canada. It currently costs Canadian’s $36 billion to keep OAS funded, but by 2030 it is projected to cost $108 billion.

Susan Eng, CARP’s Vice President of Advocacy, has responded to the possible changes, noting the significant drop in support for Harper since he made the announcement.

“Both members and non-members are calling … I think the response is visceral,” she told the London Free Press.

Many of CARP’s members are over age 65 and will not have to worry about it affecting them, but they are still actively against these changes that will affect their children and grandchildren. “Our members are mostly retired. They themselves already get their OAS. Their reaction is about the principle,” she continued.

CARP regularly asks its members how they would vote if an election were held tomorrow. Just two weeks ago the response was 44.4 per cent Conservative, but the day after Harper’s speech, it dropped to 35 per cent.

They also polled members on their opinion of making changes to the pension system, and 60 per cent either strongly disagreed, or disagreed.

“We are dealing with a group of people who are exactly their (Conservative) base. This is a political game changer. It is meaningful. It is something people are looking at. They’re vehemently opposed. They are opposed to the idea of this being introduced without being debated in a general election,” said Eng.

There are currently 4.5 workers to support every retired person in Canada, but that ratio will drop to 2 workers for every retired person by 2030.

Ralph Goodale, Liberal MP for Regina-Wascana told Global News, “If the government is about to launch this attack on old age security I think they will find a very angry population.”

Ian Lee, an assistant professor of Strategic Management and International Business at Carleton University noted that raising the age for OAS will not save a lot of money, but it does begin a conversation that has to happen. “Only five per cent of Canadian seniors live below the poverty line. If we’re trying to produce greater equity and save money, the solution is to move to targeted old age pensions. Should we be paying old age pensions to people who do not need them – retired medical doctors, retired university professors?” he said.

Pooled Pension Plans are also in this debate, and Susan Eng is less than enthusiastic about them as well. “PRPPs are just barely better than nothing. In absolute terms they are going to be nothing better than group RRSPs. And if people are not using up their RRSP room as it is, what makes you think they’re going to do this more?” she said.

Canadians currently only use up about 7 per cent of their available RRSP contribution room, according to Statistics Canada.

Watch Susan Eng defend OAS on CBC, and listen to her talk about the issue on Zoomer Radio with Dale Goldhawk.

How do you feel about possible modifications to OAS? Tell us in the comments. 

Source: CARP, CBC, LFPress, Global News


Pooled pension plans introduced to help close retirement income gap

The pension crisis

Q&A: Planning to avoid OAS clawback