Inside Politics

Securing an estimate on the Old Age Security change

Sometimes it takes a bit of work to get information in Ottawa. This week, it was the proposed change to Old Age Security in the budget implementation bill that drew questions. 

On Monday morning, I asked the offices of both Flaherty and Human Resources and Skills Development Minister Diane Finley for their estimate of what Canada will save by moving the eligible age for OAS to 67 years from 65 years.

The change will happen gradually, a month at a time, starting in 2023.

Flaherty's office referred me to Finley's office. Finley's office sent me an email with some information, but not the answer to my question. On Monday afternoon (actually, at the same moment I was opening the email from Finley's office), Flaherty answered a question from a reporter by saying yes, he'd heard $10 billion, or $12 billion. "Something in that area," he said.

At that point, a reporter in my bureau said she'd asked an finance official on budget day (March 29 - about six weeks ago) and the official had told her the estimate was $10.8 billion.

The next day, asked by both Liberal MP Scott Brison and NDP MP Peggy Nash, Flaherty said he'd heard that number from the media. He wouldn't give them an estimate. Both Nash and Brison had asked in the House of Commons too, but neither Flaherty or Finley would provide the information.

This afternoon, Flaherty's department sent me the answer.

David Barnabe, a spokesman for the finance department, wrote the following:

"By law, the minister of HRSD has to request a new actuarial report whenever the OAS program is modified. That report will quantify the cost of the program with the increased age eligibility and will be released some time after the new OAS eligibility becomes law.

However, the Office of the Chief Actuary has provided preliminary estimate that the Government of Canada would spend $97.9 billion in 2030 on OAS, if these changes are implemented. The government would have spent $108.7 billion if the changes were not implemented. [That works out to $10.8 billion]

To better inform the discussion, and ensure proper focus on the substance of what and why OAS is being changed, the Government has agreed to release this information."

Tags: budget 2012, media relations, old age security

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