By Dan Albas
My column last week raised concerns that federal government budgets often focus too much on short term thinking and ignore the long term impacts on many subjects that will impact future generations of Canadians.
This past week, the independent Parliamentary Budget Officer issued a report that also criticized that recent Liberal budget noting that the time horizon for consideration of cost impacts has been significantly shortened by the Liberals.
The PBO further went on to report that overall the changes made by the Liberals in this budget “have made it more difficult for parliamentarians to scrutinize public finances.” For partisan readers of my column, please note these are the words of the PBO and not my own.
Last week I provided specific examples on how Canadians now spend 10 per cent of our entire federal budget just on debt repayment that will only further increase now that the Liberals have ignored their electoral commitment to return to balanced budgets in 2019.
Today, I would like to discuss another long term challenge that in my view has also been ignored in the federal Liberal budget and that is our aging demographics.
In 2012, then prime minister Stephen Harper announced that starting in the year 2023, the age of eligibility for OAS benefits would be increased from 65 up to 67 to be fully implemented by the year 2030.
The Liberals cancelled these proposed OAS changes in the 2016 budget. I will leave out the politics and instead provide some information that relates to this subject.
When OAS was first created in 1952, the age of eligibility was 70. At that time the average life expectancy was 66 for men and 71 for women.
In 1965, the OAS qualifying age was lowered from 70 to 65. Today, the average life expectancy is 79 for men and 83 for women, meaning citizens are collecting OAS benefits for much longer.
There is also another consideration. Currently seniors are the fastest growing demographic in our society. In fact over the next two decades we know that the amount of Canadian citizens over the age of 65 will basically double from roughly 4.7 million seniors today to over 9.3 million by 2030.
Why does this matter? Today OAS spending costs $36 billion a year and based on the aging demographics of our society is expected to rise to $108 billion by the year 2030. On the surface, this may not seem like a challenge until you consider that currently for every one retired citizen receiving OAS benefits there is a ratio of four working Canadians not receiving OAS benefits helping to fund them.
By 2030, this ratio will be again be cut in half with just two working Canadians not receiving OAS benefits paying for twice as many citizens who are eligible. In other words there will be significantly more citizens who receive OAS benefits and significantly less citizens not receiving OAS benefits who will be attempting to pay for the costs of that.
For added context in 1975 there was a ratio of 7 working taxpayers for every citizen over 65.
Why does the ratio of fewer working taxpayers to those over 65 matter? The simple answer is income tax. Nearly 50 per cent of all federal revenue comes from income tax compared to GST that generates roughly 10 per cent of revenue.
Fewer working Canadians will result in significantly decreased income tax revenue while aging population demographics result in significantly higher costs for programs such as OAS. Keep in mind these are not partisan concerns, these are the realities of our demographics.
While many may not have agreed with raising the age of OAS eligibility, it was one proposed solution to this pending fiscal challenge. The Liberal 2016 budget eliminated this proposed solution and offers no long term solution to deal with the problem. Make no mistake, today’s youth will be the ones facing this challenge and is part of the reason they have become known as “generation squeezed.”
I welcome your comments, questions and concerns on this or any subject before the House of Commons and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or toll-free at 1-800-665-8711.