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Stéphane Dion Speaks in the House on OAS Reform

Posted on February 26, 2012

Hon. Stéphane Dion

At Question Period on Friday, February 17, 2012, Mr. Dion asked a very precise question on the cost of federal elderly benefits in proportion to Canada’s Gross Domestic Product.

This is a very important issue, because if Mr. Dion’s numbers are right – if the federal elderly benefits are only to increase by one percentage point over two decades in proportion to the size of our economy, this means that the cost of these benefits is perfectly sustainable and that there is no need for Canada to change the retirement age from 65 to 67.

Note how the government, once again, refuses or is unable to give a straight answer to a straight question:

Hon. Stéphane Dion (Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, Lib.):

Madam Speaker, the office of the Chief Actuary projects that the federal elderly benefits cost in proportion to the GDP, which is currently 2.2%, will reach a peak of 3.1% of the GDP in 2030 and will decline afterward. The Parliamentary Budget Officer’s projections are similar.

Does the Minister of Finance agree with these numbers? Will the federal elderly benefits reach a maximum of about 3.2% in the next two decades before declining?

Hon. Diane Finley (Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, CPC):

Madam Speaker, the Parliamentary Budget Officer is entitled to his opinion, whatever it may be on a given day, but we will deal with the facts.

We know that as the population ages and fewer people are left in the workplace to pay into OAS, it will become unsustainable. That is why we have to take action now so that today’s seniors have their OAS benefits and future generations get them as well. That is our responsibility, one which we take very seriously.

Hon. Stéphane Dion (Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, Lib.):

Madam Speaker, my colleague is beating around the bush. I asked a very specific question. If she cannot answer, then the finance department representative should answer. If he does not wish to believe the Parliamentary Budget Officer, then he should answer the Chief Actuary of Canada.

Is his office wrong in stating that the cost of seniors’ benefits will rise by 1% over more than 20 years and then decline afterwards? Is this figure correct? Yes or no? And if it is not, what figures does the finance department have? That is a specific question requiring a direct answer. The hon. member should stop beating around the bush.

Hon. Diane Finley (Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, CPC):

Madam Speaker, the gentleman the member referred to is entitled to his opinion. We have the facts. We will take action to protect the old age security program not just for today’s retirees, but also for future generations. It is very important to recognize that old age security will take a larger and larger bite out of the budget. It is very important to recognize that.

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