By ROSALYN ROY
SOUTHWEST COAST – Given the continuous onslaught of price hikes for everything from gasoline to groceries to home repair goods and services, it stands to reason that those on a fixed income are struggling more than ever to make ends meet. Seniors are among those Canadians who have been hardest hit by the pandemic.
But on Monday, March 8, Liberal MP Gudie Hutchings (Long Range Mountains) was one of three MPs from Newfoundland and Labrador who chose to say “Nay” to Vote No. 62, a motion by Bloc Québecois MP Andréanne Larouche (Shefford, Québec) to increase Old Age Security (OAS) benefit by $110 per month.
The proposed motion that Hutchings opposed read, “That the House: (a) recognize that the elderly were most directly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic; (b) recall that too many of the elderly live in a financially precarious position; (c) acknowledge the collective debt that we owe to those who built Quebec and Canada; and (d) ask the government, in the next budget, to increase the Old Age Security benefit by $110 a month for those aged 65 and more.”
The motion did pass successfully, 183 yays to 147 nays.
Responding to inquiries via e-mail last week, Hutchings released a statement that began, “I’ve heard from a lot of folks over the past couple of days regarding Vote 62, a motion proposed by the separatist Bloc Quebecois party. As my mother always said, the devil is in the details: Vote 62 was a motion without substance. Since it wasn’t actually a bill (connected to legislation) there was no money behind it and no plan for how to get the money for an Old Age Security (OAS) increase. The motion passed in the House of Commons, and yet this motion will not result in an increase in OAS payments to seniors because it isn’t tied to any legislation. It’s hollow.”
Hutchings clarified the difference between a motion and a bill in the House of Commons, noting that there is an important distinction that Canadians must understand.
A motion that goes before the House of Commons to be voted on may be successful or it may be defeated, but either way it receives no further consideration after that.
“Bills, on the other hand, must pass through several stages, and if the House agrees to a bill, it then becomes implemented as a law,” wrote Hutchings.
Larouche’s motion merely called on the government to consider increasing the OAS in the next budget.
“My voting no to this motion was absolutely not an indication that I do not support seniors receiving more in OAS,” wrote Hutchings. “I did not vote in support of the motion because I know that an increase to OAS payments is already in the works as it was an election promise our government made in 2019 and was reaffirmed it in the Fall Economic Statement (September 2020).”
Hutchings observed that the Federal government has provided financial support to seniors over the past year through various measures, including $1,500 in tax-free support for senior couples, an additional GST rebate payment, and increases to OAS to match inflation.
“Since the needs of seniors increase as they age, we remain committed to increasing OAS for seniors over the age of 75 by 10% (percent),” noted Hutchings. “And when I first was elected, we brought the eligibility age for OAS back down to 65, after the Conservatives had increased it.”
Hutchings said that, in her opinion, seniors and all under-served groups in Canada deserve more and recognizes that more change is still needed to fix OAS.
“In my years as MP, I’ve learned that some federal government programs, such as OAS, could do with changes to bring them into the 21st century and better suit the current state of Canada and Canadians. Because of what I have learned, I am among several Members of Parliament that are engaging in discussions around the creation of a guaranteed minimum income program in Canada. This will take time and hard work. There is still much to do and we all must work together to better our country and help each other move past the pandemic into a bright future.”