Pensions in Canada are leaving seniors in poverty

In July most seniors on Candian Pension Plan (CPP) saw an increase of only $12 to $16 a month – not enough

It is hard for many of us to imagine that Finch Avenue was once a dirt road, lined with countless apple orchards. Back then, the City of Toronto was much smaller. The area was known for its farmland and cottage country bungalows. Those who remember those days would have been contributing to their Canadian Pension Plan for decades before retiring.

Many of our neighbours have lived in the Downsview area for over 40 years, making them the original homeowners. While they are retired now, they continue to be active leaders on their own streets and at local community centres.

The CPP was created in the 1960’s as a response to people living longer and the rising level of poverty conditions for seniors at that time. The Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement were added to ensure a base level of income for all seniors. The system was designed to protect people from destitution in their old age and to give them both dignity in life and dignity in their hard-earned retirement. 

Today, our system is not keeping up with the realities of modern life. Most young people are aware of the difficulties of buying a home in the current real estate market. What many people do not realize yet, however, is the difficulty that many seniors are facing as rents rise. To illustrate the problem, a person living off of CPP and OAS could very well make $20,000 a year. A one-bedroom apartment in our neighbourhood now costs around $1500 per month, or $18,000 per year. Many who rely on their pensions live on the knife’s edge of poverty. 

Pensions go up on July 1 of every year, but most seniors only saw a monthly increase of $12-$16 per month. With real estate prices sky-rocketing and rents following suit, many seniors can barely afford their homes anymore in addition to keeping up with other living expenses. The problem is likely to get worse, as we are the only major country without a plan to deal with the realities of an aging population. 

The beauty of Canada has been its caring disposition, tolerance and acceptance. This is what makes our country one of the best places to live, and has created some of the highest standards of living in the world. That being said, the current government has done little to change make life affordable for seniors and they have no plans of making any significant changes. Seniors have it too hard and we are not doing enough to help them.

Plastic is in our food and water: At five grams a week we are eating a credit card every week

The Downsview community has many proud homeowners, with countless manicured green lawns. The neighbourhood’s emerald gardens are a testament to another time’s concept of an oasis. Green, clean and neat, with rows of driveways in between. But even here you find plastic everywhere. Whether its plastic ties, bags, wrappers, bottles or straws. Plastic debris blow in with the wind but dig into any yard and you will find more of it in the soil. 

Most of us have come to accept plastic materials as part of our daily life without recognizing the impact that it has on our environment. It is flowing into our waterways at such speed, that it is changing life in the oceans.  In 30 years, scientists believe there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. Today, there is an island of plastic in the Pacific larger than France. 

In Toronto, the problem is of a different nature. The oceans are far away, and Canada has some of the largest sources of drinking water in the world. Except, small plastic particles called microplastics are getting into everything we consume. Whether we drink water from the tap or from a bottle, we are ingesting tens of thousands of small plastic particles each year. A study estimates an average person is consuming 250 grams of plastic every year. That adds up to eating a credit card-size worth of plastic every week (in case you are wondering, tap water has is far cleaner of microplastics than bottled water).

We have been utilizing the blue bin recycling program for about 30 years here in Downsview. However, a number of recent news reports tell us that much of what we toss into the blue bin does not actually get recycled. Because much of the plastic we produce cannot ever be recycled and because of contamination of the materials, most of our plastic ends up in landfills or worse. Only about 10% of all plastic products ever made have been recycled. 

The long-term effects that micro-plastics will have on our health are still unknown, but we do not need a science degree to know the effects cannot be good. Plastic is poisoning our water, our food and our bodies. The only real solution is to stop using as much plastic in our everyday lives. We need to make the effort to switch to more reusable and biodegradable materials and avoid single-use plastics altogether. We need more reusable bags, reusable cups, reusable straws, less packaging in our products and less single use plastics. The recent push to eliminate single-use straws is a good starting place but we cannot stop there.

We are leaving mountains of garbage for the next generation. Let’s clean up our act and leave our planet in a better state than how we found it. 


Councillor Perruzza’s Motion regarding Imperial Oil Pipeline

Imperial Oil is looking to replace an existing pipeline spanning from North York to Hamilton. This line crosses the Downsview community by running underneath the Hydro corridor. Local City Councillor Anthony Perruzza presented a motion at City Council on May 14, regarding the replacement of the line in order to ensure that there is greater transparency and accountability in the process. This route carries refined oil product between Imperial Oil’s Waterdown Pump Station in Hamilton and the Finch Terminal near Keele and Finch.

Councillor Perruzza brought this construction project to City Council’s attention in order to provide our local government with an opportunity to become more involved in the proceedings. The project has been under the radar so far, but the City can further contribute to the project by demanding better safety measures and by holding all parties accountable. By becoming more informed, Councillors can spread awareness and advise their constituents on the impact of the project as it unfolds.

If the Ontario Energy Board [OEB] accepts the City’s application, then the City will have the right to participate as an intervenor. While construction projects of this nature have tight timeframes, City Staff want to be able to take the necessary steps to speak with experts in the field and seek legal counsel in order to assess the potential risks associated with the replacement of this pipeline. The environmental impact and by extension, the impact on residents needs to be properly addressed and mitigated.

While there is a public consultation set to happen in July, the information for that meeting has not been widely circulated.

City Council approved the motion at its meeting on May 15, meaning that Councillors as a whole want to participate and monitor the situation responsibly.

Please visit City Council’s website for more details about Councillor Perruzza’s motion: