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NEWS: Council chapter activists join pension sit-in protest

The Toronto Star reports, “Scores of labour activists and seniors occupied the offices of 22 Conservative MPs in Ontario on Thursday afternoon to protest possible changes in the retirement income system. Supporters of the so-called ‘Blue-Grey’ Alliance converged on constituency offices including the one for Finance Minister Jim Flaherty for more than two hours. …In addition to the occupations in Ontario, activists and retirees held sit-ins at three MP offices in New Brunswick. Support groups also organized a noon hour rally in St.John’s, Nfld.”

Board member Roy Brady notes that five of the twelve ‘visitors’ to Peterborough Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro’s office were Council of Canadians chapter members. The CHEX TV report is at http://www.chextv.com/News/LN/12-02-09/Pension_protest.aspx.

The Toronto Star article adds, “The group will also start holding town hall meetings in communities across the province to raise public awareness during the next month, said Sid Ryan, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour. ‘Prime Minister (Stephen) Harper will soon know he will have the biggest fight of his life on his hands if he tries to go forward with any of this,’ said Ryan, who joined a sit-in at Flaherty’s office in Whitby.”

“The Old Age Security (OAS) program became a hot issue last month when Harper suggested in a speech in Davos, Switzerland, that Canada is considering changes. Harper did not refer to OAS, but there is speculation the government would look at raising the eligibility age from 65 to 67 to control rising program costs. …Orville Thacker, president of the Ontario Federation of Union Retirees, said the majority of seniors are living on $25,000 a year or less after paying a lifetime of taxes. ‘OAS pensions are what pays for food and rent for seniors living on fixed incomes and it helps others get by with a little bit of dignity,’ he said.”

For a Council of Canadians campaign blog on Harper’s proposed OAS ‘reforms’, please see http://canadians.org/blog/?p=13345. Additionally, in 2009, the Council of Canadians supported the Canadian Labour Congress’ call for a 15 percent increase to the Guaranteed Income Supplement of OAS pensions, http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=787. We have also supported the call for a phased-in doubling of Canada Pension Plan payments to seniors. In the 1990s, we fought – and won – against then-prime minister Jean Chrétien and finance minister Paul Martin who sought to ‘restructure’ Canada’s public pension system. In part they were proposing that Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement be folded into a new package called the Seniors’ Benefit. The restructuring would have cut the retirement benefits of individual seniors by thousands of dollars a year and created more poverty among the elderly.