Harper creates his own crisis

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Shouldn\'t do that...


Harper could not have handled his plan to cut back the Old Age Security pension any worse if he had tried.

First he trotted off to Europe to announce the cutback to a bunch of wealthy men at an economic conference in Davos, Switzerland who couldn‘t care less about pensions in Canada.

And then Harper and his ministers went on a “sky-is-falling” scare campaign talking about “a crisis” that would hit Canada. They began making comparisons to Greece and other European countries.

The Opposition parties were quick to challenge the Harper scare tactics and demand statistics, something which is not the Harper government’s strong suit.

Then bank economists and public sector financial experts began questioning the lack of numbers. It didn’t help when his ministers began saying the Conservative government doesn’t govern on the basis of figures but on what is “right” for Canadians.

Then the Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page, recognized as the country No. 1 financial expert said he had crunched the real numbers and there is no real crisis.  The sky is definitely not falling.

Old Age Security would only take 0.4 % of the Gross Domestic Product and that wouldn’t happen for another 10 years. 

Even with a big bunch of aging baby boomers hitting retirement age and looking for pension cheques a decade from now, the government would have enough to pay out the money.

Over the next 20 years, the cost of Old Age Security would rise from 14.8 % right now, to  20.9 % in the fiscal year 2030-2031 – quite within our means of handing those old-timers a nice monthly cheque.

And after that, the number of old-timers would start to drop as the baby boomers begin dying off.

Harper and his boys fell into their usual trap whenever they are contradicted and feel cornered. They fight back, mean, dirty and personal.

Kevin Page doesn’t know what he’s talking about, they said. Finance Minister James Flaherty said Page is "unbelievable, unreliable, and incredible."

Oh yeah, so why did Stephen Harper appoint him to the top economic post in 2008?   And why has Page been right more often than Flaherty at making economic predictions?

Why didn’t Page mind his own business, they asked?

Well, he did mind his own business.  Page’s mandate says clearly that he is to offer and “independent analysis” on the state of the nation’s finances, the government’s spending, as well as “national economic trends.”

Page concluded that Harper could cutback Old Age Security for “political” reasons, but they shouldn’t try to make their case on economic arguments.

It got worse for Harper.  The hard-nosed journalists at the CBC dug out from their archives a promise that Harper had made during the 2005 election campaign in which he solemnly promised to fully preserve Old Age Security and even add to it.  “And we will honor these commitments,” Harper had said.

Ordinary elderly Canadians, began occupying the riding offices of about 24 Conservative MPs, on Thursday.

Friday afternoon Harper tried desperately to end the crisis.

 “Canadians won't see changes to Old Age Security until at least 2020,” Finance Minister Flaherty announced on Friday.

That means Canadians 57 and older should be able to expect to get the same benefits as seniors collecting them now.

He should have thought it out before. We’ll see this week if it’s enough to end Harper’s “security” crisis.

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