Pension pay at age 67 urged by think tank

A paper entitled “Is 70 the New 65?” argues Canada should follow the lead of several countries and push back normal Canada Pension Plan (CPP) eligibility from age 65 to 67, wrote the National Post Nov. 17 in a story about the University of Toronto Mowat Centre for Policy Innovation study, co-authored by Thomas Klassen, professor in York’s School of Public Policy & Administration in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies.

Klassen and Martin Hering, professor in the Department of Health, Aging & Society at McMaster University, asked CPP’s chief actuary, Claude Menard, to estimate the fiscal impact of a gradual two-year delay, starting in 2012 and phased in over 12 years – i.e. by two months per year. So those turning 60 in 2012 would be eligible for a reduced pension two months after turning 60 and a full pension two months after 65. Those turning 60 in 2023 could take early reduced benefits at 62 and a full unreduced pension at 67.

The major fiscal impact wouldn’t occur until 2050, Hering said in an interview. If most recipients did delay retirement, annual contribution rates would rise by $5 billion a year and expenses would fall by $15 billion.

Actuary Malcolm Hamilton accepts neither the diagnosis nor the remedy. “By proposing to pay the regular benefit at 67 and a reduced benefit at 65, the authors are essentially advocating a 14 per cent reduction in CPP benefits. This might make sense if the CPP was in trouble, but it isn’t.”

  • Professor Thomas Klassen, one of the co-authors of the study, says that the government has a limited number of options for reforming the system, wrote the Mowat Centre in a media release Nov. 17. Premiums, he says, are already at an all-time high. To avoid reduced benefits, the only other viable alternative is gradually increasing the pension eligibility age.

“An increase in eligibility age distributes the costs of population aging more fairly between older, younger and future generations. Increasing the retirement age strengthens the intergenerational contract upon which the CPP rests,” he says.

Former British MP, banned from Canada last year, draws sell-out crowd

George Galloway kicked off a cross-country speaking tour by coming to York University, one of the places most polarized by Middle Eastern politics, wrote The Globe and Mail Nov. 16.

While a sold-out crowd of 500 gathered in a University auditorium on Tuesday to hear him, hundreds of others packed the hallway outside to protest against his presence.

Such controversy is not unusual for the outspoken former British MP, kicked out of the Labour Party in 2003 for denouncing his country’s invasion of Iraq. He became a household name in Canada last year when he was barred from entering the country over an alleged donation to Hamas, a Palestinian organization that Canada considers a terrorist group.

Meanwhile, protesters gathered outside before the speech and remained throughout, their distant cheers and boos audible in the theatre. Waving Israeli flags and chanting “not on my campus, not on my dime,” demonstrators said they were angry that the student union had organized the event.

Police officers and security guards formed a cordon between demonstrators and the door to the venue.

“In my personal opinion, someone who’s an ally with the world’s biggest enemies should be banned from the country,” said York student Idan Mizrahi, 24.

Galloway’s supporters, meanwhile, said they weren’t bothered by the protests, an inevitable facet of the speaker’s unlikely popularity. “I welcome it; this is one of the freedoms we cherish in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” said Krisna Saravanamuttu, president of the York Federation of Students.

  • George Galloway was set to speak at Toronto’s York University on Tuesday, the first stop on his new speaking tour, wrote Nov. 17. Hillel of Greater Toronto condemned the event which was sponsored by the York Federation of Students (YFS).

“The time and money that the YFS has invested in sponsoring a speech by this extremist political cast-off who was rejected by his own constituency is an insult to York students,” said Hillel education chair Avram Heisler. “The YFS is speaking for its own radical views, not the students it purports to represent. This shameful expenditure is a misappropriation of funds provided by students to the YFS.”

York University’s students were planning to hold a rally outside the venue where Galloway was to speak.

  • Fomer British MP George Galloway kicks off his cross-country speaking tour at York University this evening, wrote Nov. 16. Galloway was famously denied entry into Canada last year because he had supported Hamas and other groups that the Canadian government considers to be terrorist organizations. Federal Court ruled last month that Galloway is, in fact, allowed in the country.

Pro-Israel critics of Galloway’s have been organizing to attend his York talk while disguised as left-wing activists, in what the National Post terms “a bizarro world in which Zionists pose as Palestinians to shout down a bearded Scot.”

  • He’s back, and to some, he’s as annoying as ever, wrote Nov. 17. To other Canadians, George Galloway has been elevated to rock star status thanks to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s attempts to ban him from the country in 2009.

Kenney argued that Galloway had given money to Hamas, which is considered a terrorist organization by Ottawa. The ban was overturned, and yesterday Galloway returned to Canada for the second time since then, making a typically inflammatory speech at Toronto’s York University in which he slammed the extension of the Afghan mission.

Free trade is anti-democratic

Investor rights clauses are reminiscent of colonialism, says Osgoode Hall Law School Professor Gus Van Harten, wrote Frances Russell in the Winnipeg Free Press Nov. 17 in a column about a growing trend towards free trade agreements between nations. “They are the most powerful legal mechanisms to regulate countries since the colonial period, established mainly to protect the interests of large corporations,” he continued in an interview. “The fines and penalties they impose are similar to the legal measures imperial powers once used to discipline new or semi-independent countries. Big corporations now use similar mechanisms to threaten governments.”

Van Harten and David Schneiderman, who teaches law and political science at the University of Toronto, have spearheaded a Public Statement on the International Investment Regime. It is signed by 48 academics from Canada, the US, Britain, Australia, China, Finland, Austria, Germany, Singapore and Thailand.

Clues to thyroid cancer unlocked

Researchers at the University of Toronto and Mount Sinai Hospital have utilized proteomic technologies to discover proteins secreted by thyroid cancer cell lines to identify and characterize potential biomarkers for the future management of thyroid carcinomas, wrote Nov. 16.

The study, recently published in the Journal of Proteome Research, is of particular importance because these biomarkers have the potential to aid oncologists in determining the aggressiveness of the cancer so appropriate treatment plans can be developed for patients.

Professor Emeritus Paul Walfish, an endocrinologist at Mount Sinai Hospital and senior author of the study, and his team [worked] in collaboration with Professor K.W. Michael Siu’s team at York University and Dr. Laurie E. Ailles in the Ontario Cancer Institute to develop a strategy to identify thyroid cancer biomarkers.

On air

  • Rob Bowman, professor of ethnomusicology in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, spoke about the announcement that the Beatles’ music has finally been added to iTunes catalogue, on CBC Radio Nov. 16.