Penny dumped in ’12 federal budget

Old Age Security change shelved until 2023; no changes to Fisheries Act.

Next fall, your pocket will feel lighter as the penny joins the $2 bill and disappears from Canadian currency.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced in Thursday’s federal budget that Canada is joining the U.K. and Australia in dropping the penny from production. One reason, it costs 1.6 cents to produce and it buys only a twelfth of what it used to.

About time, says Fay Arnold, a Maple Ridge senior who used to work in a bank and as a waitress. “It’s a nuisance,” she said while waiting to get her hair done.

“We don’t need the penny.”

She wasn’t as happy, though, with other parts of federal finance. Seniors are still struggling with meagre pensions, women in particular. Arnold scrapes by on a minimum Canada pension along with Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement of just more than $500 a month each.

“How can you possibly live on $1,200 a month?

“There’s an awful lot of seniors living by themselves, women especially, that are having an awfully hard time of it.”

However, pensioners for the next decade at least, escaped any big changes. The eligibility age to collect Old Age Security won’t begin to change to 67 until 2023, leaving the younger generation stuck with collecting at a later age.

“If you were born in 1958 or later, this will affect you, but not before that,” explained local MP Randy Kamp.

Starting next year, people can also defer collecting their OAS for five years so that by the time they do start receiving, they’ll get a fatter cheque.

There are no tax increases in the budget which forecasts a deficit of $1.3 billion in 2014, then returning to a $3 billion surplus by 2015.

“I think it’s a responsible budget. It takes a forward look.”

One highlight in the budget are several steps designed to encourage innovation such as more money for research and development.

Absent from the budget are policy documents spelling out changes to the Fisheries Act, removing habitat protection from the act. Word of a leaked document indicating that stirred up controversy, including local environmental groups opposed to any such change.

“That’s why you shouldn’t believe everything you see in a leaked document,” Kamp said.

However, the government could still make changes to the act later, though he had no timeline.

“But they’re not in this budget.”

According to the Wilderness Committee however,  follow-up legislation to budget will weaken the environmental assessment process.

“The budget includes major cuts to Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and eliminates the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy,” says a release.

It says the changes are aimed to speed up approval of the Enbridge pipeline from Edmonton to Kitimat.

The eco-energy retrofit program was also dumped. But that was only a temporary part of the Economic Action Plan, said Kamp.

Former NDP candidate Craig Speirs said Canada is losing manufacturing jobs because the government is in a rush “to become a petroleum state.

“We can’t depend on the tar sands to bail us out. It’s not going to work.”

Pension cuts are needed to pay for the tax breaks to corporations, he said.

“It’s a false issue. The system is well funded.”

The government is targeting those who oppose it, he added.

“Canada is not going to look the same when they’re finished.”

 

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