October 9th 2009
A national seniors organization issued an open letter to Brampton MP Ruby Dhalla asking her to drop proposals for changes to the Canadian pension act. The letter, released by the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP) Thursday, held back no punches in telling the Brampton-Springdale MP her Private Member’s Bill has very little chance of surviving the parliamentary approval process. Susan Eng, the organization’s vice-president of advocacy, also said her proposal is doing more harm than good.
Last June, Dhalla introduced a Private Member’s Bill to amend the Old Age Security Act so immigrant seniors can qualify to receive monthly benefit payments after three years Canadian residency instead of 10 years.
While there has been support from various communities and organizations, there has also been a hue and cry from many Canadians. Emotional opposition and criticism from Canadians, who believe recent immigrants have not earned the right to access a government-funded pension program, have drowned out any cheers of support for the bill.
Many feel the proposal could leave a much smaller pie for Canadians who have toiled decades and now rely on the program in retirement. Opposition in some circles has been tinged with anti-immigrant sentiment.
Even Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and other members of her party have told Dhalla they would not be supporting the bill. It is estimated the proposal will cost $300 million to $700 million to implement.
According to Eng, response from members of CARP and comments to the organization have been uniformly negative.
“CARP requests that you withdraw Bill C-428 in order to prevent the further corrosion of the public discourse on immigration and stem the tide of anti-immigrant sentiments that Bill C-428 has provoked,” Eng said in the open letter.
The organization supports efforts to address poverty amongst all seniors, but believes this particular bill and legislative approach is the wrong way to go about helping that segment of Canadian society.
Private Member’s Bills are rarely approved in the House of Commons. The process is much more difficult when the MP does not have government backing, let alone their own party’s support.
Dhalla has conceded parliament would have to sit for at least a couple of years for her bill to even have a chance. However, she is hopeful it will trigger productive debate and action on the issue of poverty amongst the elderly.
Keywords: poverty, pension reform