Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa, January 30, 2012.
Credits: REUTERS/Chris Wattie
OTTAWA - Opposition MPs whipped themselves into a lather Tuesday over a government review of Old Age Security, saying the pension plan is on solid footing.
The government opened itself to broadsides last week in Switzerland when Prime Minister Stephen Harper said changes were coming to ensure the sustainability of a plan funded by general revenues.
It says the cost of OAS will rise to $108 billion in 2030 from $40 billion this year. The government has been silent on its intentions except to say benefits would not be cut, leaving others to speculate the age to collect would rise to 67 - similar to what the U.S. is slowly implementing.
The office of Human Resources Minister Diane Finley ignored requests to provide figures to prove the government's claim OAS is in trouble.
Opposition MPs have fired wildly at the Conservatives to stir anger among seniors through a campaign of fear mongering, using scenarios they'll end up in soup lines when the government steals their pension.
The hysteria has been led by interim Liberal leader Bob Rae - himself the beneficiary of a $1 million payout when the MPP pension plan was modernized in Ontario in the mid-1990s.
"We cannot trust those wolves to protect the Canadian pension system," the former NDP premier said in the Commons.
Harper reminded MPs of how well Rae looked after Ontarians during a recession when he was NDP premier, and repeated that OAS will not be cut.
"We have no intention of changing any benefits. In fact, seniors would continue to receive everything that they are receiving and expecting," he said.
And while Harper's plan to tackle OAS has distracted from the public outrage over the platinum-plated pension MPs are entitled to, some economists argue the OAS should be left alone while others suggest a review is in order.
"Certainly, it doesn't strike me as something that people ought to go ballistic about as certain opposition politicians do," said James MacKinnon, head of the economics department at Queen's University and former president of the Canadian Economics Association.