Madam Speaker, I am honoured to rise in the House to talk about such an important issue and, as my party has outlined, a motion that we in the NDP will be supporting.
This issue has been at the forefront of our attention for some months but it really hit home last week when I was in my office in one of the communities I represent in The Pas. I was meeting a man in his 50s who is disabled. He is a leader when it comes to fighting for disability services for people living with disabilities in his community in the north where many challenges still remain. He was talking about his own personal challenges of being able to make do with the little money he received as a result of his disability payments.
As he started to tell me what everyday was like for him and the kind of financial decisions he made he said, “I can't wait until I can start collecting OAS”. When I asked him when his birthday was, we found out that he was just under the cut off. This man, who gives all the energy he has to making life better for people in his community who live with immense challenges, including himself, does not have a federal government to turn to, a federal government that has been there to work with Canadians to ensure that at the age of 65 and upward they can live with the dignity that they deserve.
That is the story of what the government is doing. I find it pretty rich that government members say that we should calm down because this is not coming about until 2023. How does that change anything? The changes will be destructive when it comes to the standard of living that seniors in Canada deserve. The worst part is that the Conservatives have created the argument that changes are needed based on a s message of crisis and fear-mongering, a message that they know how to deliver very well and a message completely void of fact.
Just a few months ago, in February, the Parliamentary Budget Officer noted in his report that the cost of the OAS was manageable and that there was no fiscal reason to raise OAS. Mr. Page's findings were similar to another report prepared for Finance Canada in 2009 that found Canada's retirement obligations were sustainable and that there was no pressing need to raise the retirement age and yet here we are.
What I would like to specifically note is that the impact of changing the age in terms of the OAS will have a disproportionate impact on women as well. OAS and GIS are the only source of income for many women in Canada where they are guaranteed to receive the same amount as men regardless of their labour force history. For women between the ages of 65 and 69, OAS and GIS make up about 38% of their total income. For men of the same age, it is 26%. For women between the ages of 65 and 69, OAS and GIS reduce poverty by 21%. For men of the same age, it is a 15% drop. It is clear that rolling back the age of OAS is not gender neutral and will impact even larger numbers of senior women who already live in poverty.
Perhaps even more egregious is how this legislation brought forward by the Conservative government would have a disproportionate impact on my generation. We heard a long and extensive speech about baby boomers and how great things are and so on. However, the reality is that things are not great for my generation. There was an article recently that talked about the lower standard of living that my generation now has compared to our parents at the same age.
What could be more basic than the ability to have a pension, retirement security, to count on? Unfortunately, that is something the Conservative government is taking away from Canada's young people. I believe that is the greatest shame.
This follows a pattern, whether it is cuts to environmental regulations, Canada's failure to stand up and protect the environment; whether it is a lack of investment in education and training while we see costs for getting an education increase; whether it is a refusal to enforce a national housing strategy that would allow young people to afford a home, something their parents could do in a much bigger way when one looks back in Canada's recent history; whether it is the way that rights for women, half of the Canadian population, have been rolled back, or the challenges that young Canadian women will now have.
It is the story of a government that fails to look to the future, and most importantly, fails to look out for future generations. That is why I am proud to be part of a party that has always been at the forefront of fighting for pensions, dignified retirement and proper security for seniors. In saying so, we also fight for young people and the future.
I am proud to stand up and not just support this motion but also oppose the government's measures every step of the way.