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.

Opinion: Canadian corporations enjoy billions of dollars in tax cuts while we bear the burden

In 2013 I wrote an article in the Toronto Star where I laid out the unfortunate reality that exists for large corporations in Ontario. 

In the article, I described how Ontario’s large corporate tax rate was reduced to just 11.5 per cent by the then governing Ontario Liberals. It would have been reduced even lower had the NDP not stopped the Liberals’ campaign to make the mega-corporation tax rate a lowly 10 per cent.

Each percent back then amounted to roughly $1 billion in lost revenue during a time when the economy was growing, corporations were sitting on record piles of cash, and the Liberals were proposing charging you directly for transit expansion with toll roads and other daily fees and taxes.

There was absolutely *no* reason to make life easier for corporations, and life harder for you. In fact, the economic conditions in 2013 were the exact kind when you ask big business to pay their fair share.

The Federal Liberals under Trudeau are no better. They kept Stephen Harper’s tax cuts to mega-corporations and there is no sign of rolling them back. All the while they pledged to deficit spend on our backs.

A recent report by the Canada Revenue Agency detailed how corporations are still avoiding paying taxes. It estimates that corporations, in just one year avoided between $9.4 billion and $11.4 billion in taxes. That is money we are going to have to pay instead with our taxes.

Today the economy is still chugging along as it was before the tax cuts. Corporations are raking in record profits while still not paying their fair share. The corporate tax rate in Ontario is still at 11.5 percent and the Conservative Provincial government has pledged to finish the job the Liberals started by reducing the corporate tax rate to 10.5 percent.

This will take away roughly another $1 billion in revenue while healthcare, education, childcare, child nutrition programs, and front line services you rely on are cut.

It seems we’re expected to pay more for less, while corporations are paying less and raking in more profits.

Supporters of this tax cuts plan will argue it “stimulates job growth.” As I detailed in the 2013 article, studies show that despite over 15 years of corporate tax reduction, corporations have simply banked the money instead of reinvesting it as was intended. This notion holds even more truth today. It is madness to continue this policy.

To be clear, I am not speaking about taxes on small businesses. They enjoy a completely different and smaller tax burden, as they should. This is about the mega corporations with assets of over $50 million who are sitting on piles of cash yet refuse to pay their fair share.

For years and years, both the Conservatives and the Liberals have counted on your vote so they can subsidize the profits for their big business friends on your back. 

This fall, don’t let them take your vote for granted again.

Maria Augimeri is the former Councillor for Downsview, Former Chair of the TTC, TRCA, North York Community Council and Downsview Aerospace Working Group, and the current federal NDP candidate for Humber River—Black Creek. She is a periodic contributor to the Downsview Advocate. 

TRCA building’s groundbreaking event

I was pleased to participate in the ground-breaking ceremony on June 7 for the brand new Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) head office in our community. This project is significant for many reasons.

The Toronto and Region Conservation Authority is an essential provincial body that manages our city’s watershed and ravine system (such as the Humber River and Black Creek waterways). They ensure that the ongoing effects of climate change are mitigated, and they do the bulk of behind-the-scenes work in ensuring our community remains as safe as possible from flooding and pollution. The reason we have clean and reliable water sources is partially due to the good work done by the TRCA. As seasonal and flash flooding becomes more commonplace, the TRCA’s efforts are becoming ever-more essential.

The building itself is to be on 5 Shoreham Drive. It will be a state-of-the-art eco-friendly structure that sets a new standard for office building development with the highest ‘green’ certifications and low-carbon footprint. The building is aiming for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) platinum certification as well as “WELL Building” certification. It is the kind of building we can point to when looking to achieve the highest standards in commercial building development in our community and City. It is set to be completed in spring, 2021.

The economic impact of this new building will also be a welcome benefit to our community. The hundreds of full time jobs the office will bring, in addition to the thousands of volunteers it will attract every year, will generate new business and economic activity to our area.

The TRCA was founded in the wake of Hurricane Hazel’s disastrous flooding impact on the City of Toronto. Its mission statement is to ensure our city and region’s ability to weather 10, 25, and 100-year storms is maximized, and our watersheds and ravines remain protected from pollution and inappropriate development. It is essential to the quality of life in our city. 

In my roles as TRCA Chair, Toronto City Councillor, and TRCA Board Member I have overseen this project since its infancy and I was extremely proud to be alongside other dignitaries to break ground for it in Humber River—Black Creek. 

Maria Augimeri
TRCA Board Member,
Former TRCA Chair,
Former Toronto City Councillor