Monday, 30 January 2012

Harper and Old Age Security: Lessons from Mulroney and Chrétien Majorities When Public Opinion Was Heard

It's always a bit indelicate for somebody of my age to start complaining about changes in the old age security system since I'm hardly a disinterested party. But Stephen Harper's little speech in Davos last week when he mentioned raising the age of eligibility to 67 from 65 has prompted interesting reflections on the part of columnists and editorial writers.

Perhaps the most pertinent is that of Jean-Robert Sansfaçon of Le Devoir. (Please note that he was born in 1948, which makes him about to turn 65 so he's got a vested interest too.)

He writes: "The only thing that explains the sudden interest of Mr. Harper in universal social programs, is his determination to find some room for budgetary manoevres with a long time goal of reducing taxes for groups which the conservative ideology wants to favour. The rest is nothing but pretext." (My translation.)

This is just another in a long list of things on Harper's agenda which is to change fundamentally this country. He needs to be stopped, and since he has a majority government, we've got to make sure that the message that we don't agree is heard outside Parliament, in hopes that it may have some influence inside.

Sounds like a tough order, but it maybe possible. Sansfaçon notes that Brian Mulroney backed down from dis-indexing pensions in the 1980s, despite his majority. Similarly Jean Chrétien didn't use his majority to force through measures that would link the old age pension with means tests. Public opinion was against these moves and these two prime ministers reconsidered. Now, how to get the message through to Steve...


Anonymous said...

So what if you're not a disinterested party - complain anyways and complain loudly. The establishment would love to disenfranchise people from contesting its decisions.

Taking OWS as an example the poor shouldn't complain because they're dirty poor people who deserve to be that way. The homeless shouldn't complain because the mortgage crisis was all their fault from swindling the poor megabanks. The upper-middle class shouldn't complain because they have iPhones. Even wealthy people shouldn't complain because they're obviously just shills for Obama.

Somehow it's improper for real stakeholders to voice their opinion. Yet news personalities (TV/radio/print) can pretend to be neutral arbiters of truth even when it's the establishment that signs their paycheque.

lagatta à montréal said...

My MP, Alexandre Boulerics has a good response about how these attacks (retirement pensions in the Harper crosshairs) are an unacceptable choice, not a necessity:

To the tax havens and regressive fiscal system, one could add the absurd building of new prisons when the crime rate has decreased significantly - the ageing population is not the only factor, but it is one reason such a trend is not entirely negative - especially in terms of violent crimes. And unnecessary or downright harmful military spending...

Given that Cons have a majority in the House, the fight against this assault on pensions has to be a public one, but earlier governments have backed down after public outcry and mobilizations.