What the Prime Minister SaidThen vs. Now

2005: Stephen Harper is a champion that will defend public pensions and erosion

In 2005 when Harper campaigned against Paul Martin’s Liberals he promised to defend seniors’ public pensions – not cut them back…

In a speech to seniors in Guelph on December 9, 2005, Harper said seniors, like his mother, had worked for years to pay into the public pension system and that they expected it to be there for them.

“My government will fully preserve the Old Age Security (OAS), the Guaranteed Income Supplement and the Canada Pension Plan, and all projected future increases to these programs. And we will build on those commitments,” Harper promised before winning the election in 2006. You can see a video from this speech here:

January 26th 2012: While in Switzerland, Stephen Harper announces his plans to slash the OAS to the delegates at the World Economic Forum, it is the first Canadians hear of it. Click here for more info

While in Davos, Prime Minister Stephen Harper gave a speech that put Canadians on alert  that an austerity budget is on its way.

“One of the backdrops for my concerns is Canada’s ageing population,” the prime minister said. ”If not addressed promptly this has the capacity to undermine Canada’s economic position, and for that matter, that of all western nations, well beyond the current economic crises.”

He went on to explain that just as Canada has moved to limit the growth of health care spending, so it will for the retirement income system. “Fortunately, the centerpiece of that system, the Canada Pension Plan, is fully funded, actuarially sound and does not need to be changed. For those elements of the system that are not funded, we will make the changes necessary to ensure sustainability for the next generation while not affecting current recipients.”

February 3rd 2012: Conservative MPs like Shelley Glover call reports that Conservatives are considering raising the age eligibility for OAS from 65 to 67 “very inaccurate and inflammatory”. When asked about it specifically, Harper declares “Absolutely It’s being Considered”.

On Feb. 3 and the PM had an exclusive interview with Postmedia News. Click here for more information on this interview

Postmedia: I’d like to start off with the debate that is now underway because of how you framed the debate in Davos last week. That being that we are entering a period as Western nations where we have to make some tough calls and that if we don’t, for instance, on the public pension system, it won’t be affordable for future generations. You made it very clear that easy choices now could mean fewer choices later. Those were your words. There are other Western nations which long ago decided that 65 as the pensionable age needs to be changed very gradually. So I’m wondering in this country, is 65 fixed in stone, or is it an age for Old Age Security (OAS) which you are considering, very gradually, raising to 67?

Harper: Well, first of all I think we should go back to the major issue here, which goes beyond, of course, just retirement income system. And that is we are going to have a lower and lower percentage of our population that is working. This is going to be a significant economic problem. And obviously one of the things that many countries have been looking at is trying to have the incentives to keep people in the labour force and contributing. These are things that most Western nations are looking at. Some Western nations, unfortunately, are looking at them under desperate circumstances — where they are being forced to cut benefits to people when they need them. I don’t think we need to be in that position. I think we can examine these issues now and deal with problems before they are upon us. So I think these are things that do have to be examined.

Postmedia: There are Canadians who are wondering, ‘What does it mean to me?’ So that’s why I asked the question. Are you in a position to tell us whether or not the OAS eligibility is being considered as an option?

Harper: Absolutely, it’s being considered. But what we have to be clear on is that we are not looking at changes that are going to affect people that are currently in retirement or approaching retirement. We’ve been very clear on that.

February 10th 2012: Finance Minister Jim Flaherty tells Reuters that pension changes would affect those retiring in 8 to 13 years (as well as those who will retire after that)

Changes to Canada’s Old Age Security pension program will likely come in 2020 or beyond and will involve more than one federal budget, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said on Friday.

“This is for 2020, 2025 so that people who are middle age and younger today … can be assured that they will have these social programs properly funded, fiscally responsible, that they’ll be there for them in the future,” Flaherty said, according to a transcript of comments in Oshawa, Ontario.

The remarks pinpoint more precisely the timing of proposed pension reforms that have caused a political firestorm in Ottawa for several days.

Click here to read the full Reuters article