Toil and trouble… then inequality

Editorial of July 25, 2013:

After toiling through adult life and approaching that freedom 65 (or 60 for the lucky ones), Canadians can take solace in the fact they will finally be rewarded for their labours with a pension and an Old Age Security cheque.

For those who have laboured and paid taxes for 40 or more years, it’s time to get something back. For some, however, this return on their lifetime of work investment does not come so readily or equitably.

Recently in the Senate, P.E.I.’s representative there, Catherine Callbeck, spoke about the fact that single or divorced seniors aged 60 to 64 are not eligible for the Old Age Security allowance, even if they are considered low-income seniors.

Low-income married couples are eligible for this allowance, if one of them is receiving the Old Age pension and guaranteed income supplement. Low-income surviving spouses (aged 60-64) are eligible for the allowance for the survivor.

However, as the senator from Central Bedeque, who frequently champions the cause of senior Canadians, pointed out there is no allowance for single low-income seniors.

This is a flaw in the OAS allowance criteria that should be fixed. The criteria, as it stands, means single or divorced seniors are not eligible to apply for benefits that their married or widowed contemporaries are receiving.

Those single or divorced seniors are more likely to be in need of this allowance, having to rely on only one income while senior couples have two incomes to support one household.

If the OAS allowance goes to widows and widowers, why are those who have never married or are divorced, not eligible to apply for the same allowance?

“The issue is quite simple,” said Callbeck during the debate in the Senate. “As it stands now, certain low-income seniors are being denied a benefit under the Old Age Security program – the OAS Allowance – simply due to marital status.”

Callbeck promised to continue to press for changes because of the number of Island seniors living below the poverty line who could really use this additional income.

“The fact that some low-income seniors are eligible for a benefit and others are not because of marital status is appalling,” says Callbeck. She’s right.

The federal government should not exclude one group of people from receiving assistance just because they never married or are divorced. That’s discrimination. The senator is right – it must be rectified.


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