Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa January 30, 2012.
Credits: REUTERS/Chris Wattie
OTTAWA - Prime Minister Stephen Harper came under fire Monday for a plan to tinker with Old Age Security to make the pension viable for future generations of lower-income Canadians.
The Conservatives responded that the NDP and Liberals would lead Canada down the same path as near-bankrupt Greece if given the chance because both parties would tax and spend without considering the consequences.
MPs returned to Parliament Hill after a Christmas break - but it appears all parties stashed their goodwill in the attic with the tree ornaments.
Government House Leader Peter Van Loan was first up, reciting the government's agenda when he drew a contrast between where Harper wants to take the country and the two leaderless opposition parties.
"The other parties think that we can just go on spending out of control. They would have us spend more and more and tax more and more to get there without any expectation of the consequences," he said. "If you want to know what the consequences are you need only look to Greece."
The NDP and Liberals - both agitated that Harper used the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last week to announce pension and immigration changes - said Harper will "take an axe" to pensions when he could pull the plug on new fighter jets and prisons and hike taxes.
The government has not spelled out the changes to OAS being considering, but Harper said in the Commons the government has no intention of cutting the amount pensioners receive.
"We have been very clear that as we reduce the deficit, we are not cutting transfers to either provinces or individuals," he said. "The reality is that we aren't cutting programs for seniors."
One idea being floated is raising to 67 from 65 the age those eligible for OAS could begin collecting.
Observers expect the government to shed more light on pensions in a budget expected next month or March.
Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae said Harper misled Canadians during the election.
"This government campaigns promising to maintain a structure in place for senior citizens and then it goes to Davos and announces that they were only kidding in last election," Rae said.