Changes to seniors' income support halted

The federal Conservative government backs away from a plan to cut a portion of federal income support for seniors.

The federal government has backed away from a plan to cut a portion of federal income support for seniors.

Human Resources Minister Diane Finley made the announcement during question period Friday in the House of Commons, after being pressed by opposition members.

The Globe and Mail had reported that the rules, which it said were approved without notice, would "change the way lump-sum withdrawals from Registered Retirement Income Funds affect Guaranteed Income Supplement payments."

"Low-income seniors across the country will be affected if they withdraw more than the minimum allowed from their RRIF," reported the Globe.

Finley told the House she was very concerned by what was reported.

"That's why I've instructed departmental officials to immediately put a hold on this policy while we review it completely," Finley said. "I've also instructed the officials to contact those individuals affected directly so that their applications can be reviewed and evaluated for eligibility under the old policy."

Liberal MP Gerry Byrne said a review was not a reversal.

"No notice, no consultation, no information and no compassion," Byrne said.

Finley said the Conservative government has done more than any previous government to support seniors and that's why "we're taking steps immediately to put this policy on hold. We want to make sure that we are treating seniors fairly."

"That's why my officials have been instructed to contact the individuals affected directly and immediately to reevaluate their applications and their eligibility according to the original policy," she said.

Libby Davies, an NDP member of Parliament from Vancouver, said in the House that it's "very disturbing that they try and sneak these changes through that are very harmful, that will impact on a lot of seniors, and I found the minister's response today entirely unsatisfactory.... She says she's going to put in on hold. What does that mean? We want this policy gone." 

"And it makes one wonder, what else have they been trying to sneak through that we don't know about?" Davies added.