Diverse opinions on parks and pensions

Constituents have lots to say about Jasper Park and public sector spending.

Never let it be said that Canadians are not a diverse and energetic population when it comes to expressing personal points of view on a range of different topics.

This is something that I welcome, as it indicates to me that people are engaged in the discussion of how we can build a better country.

In an earlier MP report, we covered the topic of a proposal for the Glacier Discovery Walkway project in Jasper National Park.

The intent of the report was not to ask citizens to support or oppose that project but rather to clarify what was being proposed in response to inquiries from constituents.

In the days that followed, I heard from citizens who are very strongly in favour of the project and from those who believe there should be no public amenities whatsoever in national parks.

Recently another topic that I am hearing a diverse range of opinions about pertains to the subject of pensions.

Currently there are concerns being expressed to me by many public sector employees regarding the future of their pension plans.

At the same time I am also hearing from taxpayers with concerns about the costs of public sector pension plans, as well as the costs of pension plans for Members of Parliament.

There has been much speculation recently in the media that there may be pending changes to pensions within the public sector. Currently our government is looking at all forms of public sector spending in order to find efficiencies and savings without raising your taxes.

At this point, all options are being considered. I will state for the record that should changes be proposed to the MP pension plan that is more respectful of the taxpayer I will fully support such initiatives.

I will note that individuals in the public service pay into and earn them; however contributions and benefits must be fair to the taxpayers who help fund them.

My office also receives on a regular basis questions from many citizens about the different programs that the Federal Government administers, like the Canada Pension Plan (CPP,) Old Age Security (OAS) and the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS.) For your information, here are a few points about these programs:

The CPP is generally funded equally by you and your employer during your working years.

CPP can provide benefits for loss of income created by disability or retirement. The benefits are ultimately calculated by how much you have contributed and over what length of time.

Currently the maximum CPP retirement pension amount is just under $1,000 monthly at age 65.

You can start collecting CPP as early as 60 or as late as 70 however different rates would apply. In contrast OAS provides a modest pension to most Canadians at age 65, if you have lived in Canada for at least 10 years.

For the record, federal Liberal bill 428 that proposed lowering the 10-year residency requirement was not passed by Parliament.

The maximum OAS payment is just under $550 monthly for those individuals with 40 years or more of residency after their eighteenth birthday.

Seniors with earnings in excess of roughly $70,000 per year will gradually receive a lesser OAS benefit that ultimately is eliminated for an income in excess of $112,000 a year.

The GIS is specifically for lower income seniors 65 and older with an income of roughly $ 16,000 annually or less.

If you have questions for any of the above programs you can contact Service Canada toll free at 1-800-622-6232 for further information.

While these three programs are generally well known, they certainly aren’t the only ones that the Federal Government administers as part of a broader social safety net.

With increasing demographic pressures coupled with the backdrop of a fragile economic recovery, the one thing we can count on is a robust discussion of our options, as we look to do our part in the building of a better Canada.

Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for Okanagan- Coquihalla and can be contacted at dan.albas@parl.gc.ca


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