OTTAWA - Canadians are grudgingly in line with Prime Minister Stephen Harper's plan to make pensioners wait a little longer for old age security, a newly released survey indicates.
Harper surprised Canadians last January when he announced plans to reform OAS in a speech Davos, Switzerland.
But in the month leading up to the bombshell announcement, the Conservative government had been quietly polling Canadians on their retirement plans and whether they were willing to work past 65.
The $95,768 focus group survey — completed in mid-December for Human Resources and Skills Development Canada — revealed widespread anxiety about the impact of the aging workforce and the coming crunch that will have on social programs.
While participants said they still dreamed of retiring at 65 or earlier, Canadians have apparently mellowed in their attitudes towards reforms since 1985, when former prime minister Brian Mulroney was forced to backpedal on pension changes after angry seniors warned him he'd pay for them later at the ballot box.
Participants initially balked at the idea of the government tinkering with OAS.
“However, when provided with some statistics about the shrinking ratio of working Canadians to retirees over the next 20 to 25 years, many reluctantly suggested it might be necessary to make larger-scale adjustments,” the report states.
Those closest to becoming pensioners themselves were the most wary of any reforms and warned any proposed changes should be at least 10 years down the road.
The increase in the age of eligibility from 65 to 67 for OAS will be phased in starting in 2023.
The government also offered a carrot to people who willingly work longer. The changes to OAS included in the omnibus budget bill — which passed in the House earlier this month — lets people voluntarily defer their OAS pension for bigger payouts later on.
Ipsos Reid held 12 focus groups across Canada in early December.