Harper clueless to challenges of age

Standing on the doorstep of 2013, I am sadly aware that the phrase “another year older” has sobering implications

Standing on the doorstep of 2013, I am sadly aware that the phrase “another year older” has sobering implications — especially on one such as I, a charter member of the ubiquitous aging demographic. And, looking back on 2012, I find that issues of aging barely rated a mention when the younger media pundits were crafting their year-in-review pieces.

As I look back before looking forward, I can’t shake off my disbelief over Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s decision to progressively increase the age of eligibility for the OAS pension and the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) from 65 to 67.

It sent a pretty clear message to the early onset seniors amongst us that this government has no understanding of the challenges seniors face.

The theory is that pushing the retirement age to 67 will keep seniors working longer and thus reduce the “dependency ratio” between idle snowbirds and the dwindling ranks of benefit-paying worker bees.

To get a sense of what the retirement landscape will look like when all this starts kicking in it helps to get a sense of where we’re at today. OAS and GIS provide one third of the income of all sen­iors over 65, and one half of the incomes of seniors with incomes less than $20,000.

One in four seniors 65 to 70 is still working, more than double what it was in 2000, and a quarter of them can only find part-time work. Twenty per cent of workers over 65 earn less than $5,000 a year.

A Statistics Canada survey of 55-plus workers found that only one third had retired because they were financially ready.

Based on this reality, respected Canadian Labour Congress economist Angella MacEwan predicts that “delaying the age of eligibility for OAS and GIS will result in significantly re­duced incomes for those who are unable to replace OAS/GIS income from earnings in low wage jobs.”

She says it will take considerable hours in low-wage jobs to replace the maximum OAS/GIS benefit of about $14,000 per year or even to replace the basic OAS benefit of just over $5,000 per year.

“Forcing lower paid work­ers to work from age 65 to 67 by depriving them of access to the OAS and the GIS would mean that an important subgroup of seniors would likely experience very sig­nificant reductions in income compared to the status quo.

To some degree, it would also force older workers to compete with younger workers for entry-level, part-time jobs,” she says.

The reality today is that most baby boomers don’t want to sacrifice their current lifestyle to enter retirement and many will stay in debt to accomplish this. Almost 60 per cent of pre-seniors 50 to 59 would rather work longer to live better in retirement, versus just 25 per cent who are prepared to live more modestly in order to retire early.

This is reality. For many it is a hard one. And, it will be harder still in the years to come for the many thousands of seniors who have not been fortunate enough to financially inoculate themselves against Harper’s retirement scheme.

In the year to come it would be reassuring if our elected representatives returned to this issue and demanded another round of informed debate.

Sadly, you will rarely find the word “informed” in a sentence that also includes the words “Harper government.” M

Just Posted

WINE NOTES: Discovering valuable Spanish gems

Check out the Spain section of your local wine store, recommends Monday expert Robert Moyes

Victoria’s Oktoberfest brings out the Bavarian in all of us

Stein and Dine at Victoria Public Market celebrates German food, beverages, culture on Oct. 19

Restaurant Review: Authentic Mexican molé hits the spot

Restaurante la Tortilla Mexicana’s hearty, spicy sauce works well over enchiladas, writes Allan Reid

REVIEW: Mullins’ Weaksauce hits the mark, like a good hockey pass

UVic Fine Arts alumni and frequent CBC writer’s biographical storytelling show here through Oct. 19

Two local authors walk away with Victoria Book Prize

Kathy Page and Aidan Cassie each walked away with a literary award

Fashion Fridays: How to pose in photos

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Sooke Philharmonic Orchestra launches new season

First up: Celebrating the Concerto on Oct. 27

Trudeau to appear on Jessi Cruickshank’s Facebook Watch show ‘New Mom, Who Dis?’

Federal Liberal leader to do sit-down interview with Canadian media personality on Wednesday

‘Joker’ laughs its way to October box office record

Warner Bros. said “Joker” grossed an estimated $93.5 million in ticket sales from 4,374 screens in North America

Ginger Baker, Cream’s volatile drummer, dies at 80

Baker wielded blues power and jazz technique to help break open popular music in the 1960s

‘Interesting mixture of emotions’: Scott Moir reflects on final tour with Tessa Virtue

Multiple Olympic ice dance gold medallists skating through B.C. during the Rock the Rink tour

It’s onward and upward for Victoria gelato artisan

After winning Gelato Festival gold, Stefano Mosi will compete at North American finals in 2020

Most Read