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Tuesday, 26 November 2013

What's the Problem with (dis)Services Canada and Seniors' Pensions?

Following is the letter-to-the-editor I sent yesterday to Terry Bush, Central Hastings News. My first letter was published several weeks ago, and this is my response to Anne McNeill's letter-to-the-ed.

This letter was published on page 6 of Central Hastings News, Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013. Total distribution 474,000.

Dear Editor (Hi Terry):
Several weeks ago you published my warning to seniors that receiving their old age pensions and dealing with Services Canada will likely prove difficult. My warning still very much stands, despite the snarky letter in last week's paper claiming this was misinformation. 

However, Anne McNeill's letter did provide some basic information that I've been unable to obtain from the Services Canada website or from their employees. According to Ms. McNeill the basic annual guaranteed income for a senior is $16,573.20. I thank her for finally providing the supposed financial baseline for all seniors. Unfortunately, what should be, doesn't always mean it is! Ms. McNeill wrongfully assumes that I haven't applied for the supplements GAINS and GIS, which I definitely have done. I made all my applications well ahead of schedule, and twice I've provided additional financial statements to SC back up my applications. Despite being so proactive I continue to struggle far below the poverty level on under $1K a month in pensions.

Services Canada has handled my applications and requests for help and information in the same style manifested by the Prime Minister, the one who prorogues our Parliament to avoid uncomfortable situations. Simply, there have been no written replies from Services Canada. Ms. McNeil at least puts some information in print. This situation is not unique to me. It appears to be quite universal among seniors. When I discuss pensions with other seniors, seemingly everyone is getting a different amount, no one understands why, and many are not receiving even the baseline support presented by Ms. McNeill.

A friend in Hamilton was in a similar situation with SC when he qualified for his senior pensions several years ago. He was also being grossly underpaid, and it took the intervention of his MP for him to begin receiving his fair pensions. And yes, Ms. McNeill was frustratingly right here, as he now receives approximately the same $18,353.76 she believes I should be receiving. So does this mean each senior in Canada will have to visit their MP to get personal political help to begin receiving their fair pensions?

Guess this is a heads-up to our MPs as well ...

Chris Faiers
12 Main St.
Marmora, Ontario
K0K 2M0




November 27, 2013

Dear Chris,

         I have been reading your recent pieces with great interest. What you report is completely correct. ALL Canadians living on the government pensions alone are forced to live below the poverty line. The poverty line (by the government’s own calculation) is about $20,000 at the present time for a single person. But the highest pension amount (C.P.P. plus O.A.S. plus G.I.S.) is considerably under $19,000. Exactly as you report.

         But hold on Chris, it actually gets worse. Last year I received a cheque for $600 from my publisher in royalties. Since this was a year ago, it was my first royalty cheque since going on the O.A.S. and the G.I.S. Guess what? The government cut my pension by $42.36 per month. $42.36 X 12 is $508.32. I was only able to keep $91.68 of my $600 in royalties! (This is absolutely true.)

         I went to my M.P. (a Tory, unfortunately, but that’s not my fault) and inquired. I was told that this is the way the system works for retired people.

         This is not a one-off. I read Good Times magazine. They have a financial consultant reply to questions from readers concerning retirement issues. A reader of Good Times earned $200 in interest. And guess what? The government took most of it by reducing his pension for a year. So he wrote to the financial consultant at the magazine and was told what I had been told by my M.P. That’s the way the system works for retired folk.

         In my opinion this is TOTALLY outrageous. If you are poor and do manage to earn a few hundred dollars, the government will take almost all of it!

         In the future I will tell my publishers to keep my royalties. As poor as I may be, I would much rather take a pass on $91.68 if it means I can keep $508.32 out of the hands of the federal government.

         . . . James

p.s. Please feel free to share this letter with others.


Hi James,
Thanks for the further information. Arggggghhhhhh This is such a crock of shite!!!!  :  (  I'm sick of having to fight evil & incompetent governments & bureaucracies my entire adult life. I'd naively hoped that in my dotage I'd finally be able to devote myself full time to literary activities - my own writing, of course, but also coordinating events like our tribute to Ray Souster, the Imperial Public Library gig last year to Milt, PurdyFests (year #8 coming up!) etc. etc. .

Somehow I've managed to do all these things on an extremely limited budget (& also publish 2 books with Hidden Brook Press), but as I continue to age I know I'll be able to do less & less, & if I have to spend a substantial amount of my time & mental energy doing EXTREME budgeting, well, some of my planned golden age activities just ain't gonna happen. I'd love to finally tour Canada - I've never been to B.C., for God's sake. And I should be able to afford decent dental care - I need at least one root canal and possibly several fillings.

Even my little dog, Chase, is subject to the harshness of extreme budgeting. He is due for a visit to the vet, but I'm holding off on that. My old Sube is rusting & is possibly getting dangerous to drive. I sure won't be driving it on the 401 on a regular basis, which means I haven't been able to visit friends in TO, or attend literary events there for some time. Some good news, tho, as my mother has earmarked a nice $ gift for me, so I should have enough from that to repair the Sube into a temporary safe driver, & then in the spring buy a newer & safer used vehicle.   

But this is just so wrongheaded & counter productively cheap of the government to skin seniors for a few bucks. $500 more a month would mean a world of difference for me - the difference between being a happy, healthy & extremely productive senior, & one who is slowly sinking into dubious health & who is unnecessarily financially limited with his ability to contribute to society in so many areas.

Great to hear from you ... say hi to Norma from Chase & me ...
as always, peace & poetry power!
Chris ... & Chase Wrffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff!

p.s. I accepted your offer to share your letter, & it's now posted on my blog (following)

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Nov. 28, 2013


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Lisa Ayuso
Associate Producer
The Current, CBC Radio One

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October 09, 2009

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