Harper considering raising OAS age to 67
Published Thursday, January 26, 2012 5:14PM EST
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 7:16AM EDT
The Conservative government is considering raising the age Canadians can receive the Old Age Security benefit from 65 to 67, CTV News has learned.
In the keynote address at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised major reforms on retirement pensions, environment approvals and immigration policy.
"In the months to come, our government will undertake major transformations to position Canada for growth over the next generation," Harper said in his speech, referring to the upcoming budget.
Harper didn't mention specific reforms in the speech but said Canada needs to find savings in the Old Age Security benefit, as Canada's aging population is growing more expensive and the current model is unsustainable.
"Our demographics also constitute a threat to the social programs and services that Canadians cherish," he said.
The Canada Pension Plan "does not need to be changed," Harper said, because it is fully funded. But as the population ages, OAS costs are expected to rise to $108 billion a year in 2030 from $36 billion in 2010. That's because the number of Canadians over 65 will rise to 9.3 million in 2030 from 4.7 million in 2010.
Speaking to reporters in Ottawa Thursday, NDP MP Peter Julian said raising the retirement age is "completely unacceptable."
"The reality is, Canadians want to see retirement security put in place," Julian said, noting that "thousands" of seniors live in poverty. "For Mr. Harper to say: ‘Well, work two more years and then you can retire,' is not appropriate."
The NDP is proposing instead an increase in CPP contributions and further investment from the government in the plan.
Julian also criticized Harper for discussing pension plan reforms "with billionaires" in Davos "before holding that discussion here in Canada."
Back in Davos, Harper also said Canada's economic needs must drive reform when it comes to immigration.
"We will ensure that, while we respect our humanitarian obligations and family-reunification objectives, we make our economic and labour force needs the central goal of our immigration efforts in the future," he said.
The prime minister also said it was a national priority to "ensure we have the capacity to export our energy products" and said upcoming changes to the regulatory review process will look to avoid "delay merely for the sake of delay."
Harper's speech was a sales pitch to the political and financial leaders, touting Canada as a safe place to invest in the midst of global economic uncertainty.
He vowed to push ahead with plans to streamline environmental approvals for major energy projects and to develop ways to export energy to Asia.
Harper also suggested Western countries have taken their wealth for granted and imperiled the global economy by ringing up too much debt.
"I ask whether the creation of economic growth, and therefore jobs, really is the number one policy priority for everyone," he said.
"Or is it the case that in the developed world, too many of us have, in fact, become complacent about our prosperity, taking our wealth as a given, assuming it is somehow the natural order of things?"
Trade deal with Europe
Earlier on Thursday, British Prime Minister David Cameron touted the value of a free trade deal between the European Union and Canada.
A potential free-trade deal with the EU has been under discussion for some time, but Cameron urged leaders to focus on concluding the details quickly.
Cameron referred to his agenda as "unashamedly pro-business"
Harper will also be meeting personally with Cameron, a fellow Conservative.
Canada's debt load is much lower than most developed countries. However, Harper has still made the elimination of the deficit a medium-term priority.
The upcoming federal budget is expected to detail extensive cuts in government spending.
The main focus for many delegates at the forum has been the ongoing economic turmoil and looming debt crisis in Europe.
On Wednesday during her opening address, German Chancellor Angela Merkel disappointed many by saying that increasing the size of a bailout fund for the eurozone was not an option.
Members of the European Union are trying to find ways to stimulate economic growth and job creation without running up the national debt.
With files from The Canadian Press