Justin Trudeau courts seniors with pension pledge
Liberal leader says he will develop plan to bolster CPP within 3 months of taking office
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau pledged more help for Canadian seniors today with a promise to bolster the Canada Pension Plan and increase incomes for low-income seniors.
Trudeau laid out his party's proposal to increase retirement security during a campaign stop for the Oct. 19 election in Toronto's Liberty Village. He was surrounded by members of CARP, an organization that advocates on behalf of retired Canadians. The event included a town hall-style question-and-answer period with the audience.
The Liberal plan includes a promise to restore the eligibility for old age security and guaranteed income supplement back to 65, a new seniors price index to make sure those benefits keep up with rising costs, a 10 per cent boost to the guaranteed supplement for single low-income seniors and a pledge not to cut pension income splitting for seniors.
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The Conservatives announced in 2012 that the age of eligibility for old age security would be raised from 65 to 67 — a change that will be implemented gradually over six years beginning in 2023.
A Liberal government would also prioritize construction of affordable housing for seniors as part of their commitment of $20 billion over ten years for what the party calls "social infrastructure."
Once the plan is implemented, it will help lift hundreds of thousands of seniors out of poverty, Trudeau said.
The NDP are also courting seniors. NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said Sunday that if elected his government would provide $1.8 billion over four years to help the provinces better care for seniors. The NDP have also said that a New Democratic government would roll back the age of eligibility to 65.
But Trudeau repeated his criticism that Mulcair will be unable to deliver what he has promised on the campaign trail because of a "foolish and irresponsible" commitment to balancing the budget during his first year in office.
"What he is saying is his priority is getting out of deficit right now and giving Canadians the help they need later, in a few years," Trudeau said.
'Fiscal deficit doesn't concern Canadians'
The Liberal leader spoke to reporters as the Finance Department released its final tabulation of year-end figures for the fiscal year 2014-15. The report showed that Canada posted a $1.9 billion budget surplus — a surplus that came a year earlier than previously forecasted.
The numbers could be troublesome for Trudeau's campaign narrative, which has focused heavily on the message that he is the best equipped of the party leaders to perk up Canada's sluggish economy — a goal the Liberals would achieve by running three straight deficits in order to invest in infrastructure before balancing the books in 2019.
But Trudeau is sticking to his plan, saying that Conservative Leader Stephen Harper managed to get a surplus by cutting program spending that Canadians need. He added that new infrastructure investments remain critical.
"We're in deficit right now. But of the different deficits out there, the fiscal deficit isn't the one that concerns Canadians and certainly doesn't concern economists that much. It is the infrastructure deficit that is so concerning to so many people. That's what's slowing down our growth."
The Tories have slammed the Liberals' and NDP's commitment to expand the CPP and reform the employment insurance system, framing it as a payroll tax hike that will stifle small businesses and curb job growth that the government cannot afford.
"The Liberals and NDP are making tens of billions of spending promises with money they do not have and money they can only get by running ongoing, multi-billion dollar deficits and raising your taxes," Harper said during a campaign stop in Kamloops, B.C., Monday morning.
The Tory leader used his speech at a resource development service company to highlight his government's economic record ahead of Thursday's economy-themed debate in Calgary.
"We have an economy that's growing. We have a budget that is in balance — a slight surplus. We have our taxes going down," Harper said.
"We have got to stay on the course we are on."
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With files from Margo McDiarmid