Conservative leader Stephen Harper and Liberal leader Justin Trudeau butted heads during Thursday’s national leaders’ debate when Maclean’s moderator Paul Wells raised questions about the country’s economy. The discussion veered toward pensions and income-splitting and what the government is doing to help Canadians save for retirement.
Trudeau jumped on Harper’s refusal to co-operate with the provinces on enhanced government pension plans.
“You’ve categorically refused to actually engage in the kind of pension security that Ontario and other provinces are asking for,” said Trudeau. He also pointed the finger at Harper for changing the retirement age from 65 to 67.
The Harper government recently announced that it would not help the provincial government with the implementation of the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan. The plan will force Ontarians without a workplace pension plan into mandatory retirement savings. Instead, the Tories have recently promised to consider voluntary CPP top ups by taxpayers.
Harper fired back with a list of things his administration has done for seniors.
“OAS is increasing. We have brought in the largest increase to the Guaranteed Income Supplement for poor income seniors in 25 years,” he said, adding that the retirement age would not go up for another few years. This elicited a frustrated response from Trudeau.
“Oh, so it’s for our grandchildren to worry about that one?”
Harper ignored the quip and went on to laud his government’s increase of the Old Age Security pension and the Guaranteed Income Supplement, both targeted at lower-income seniors, among other changes.
“We brought in income-splitting for our pensioners—I know something the other parties oppose, but they appreciate it,” Harper said.
To that, Trudeau disagreed, saying that his party has not “talked about touching…income-splitting for seniors.”
The Liberals voted against an omnibus bill that included nixing the measure back in 2007, and Trudeau recently voiced concerns over implementing income-splitting for couples with young children citing studies that suggest it would primarily benefit the wealthy.