‘Please Forward This Email’ – Setting the Record Straight

Winston Churchill once said “a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on”.  He said this decades before the email and social media became the popular mediums for communication, so today a lie – or incorrect information – can travel ten times around the world before truth or accuracy can weigh in.  Even worse is the fact that innuendo and untruths can live on the internet forever and continue to confuse and confound people for years after they were first posted.  I see this on a daily basis in politics and I am truly concerned about this phenomenon when it upsets people or causes them to worry about policies in Canada.  So today, I am trying my best to put an end to the most common untruth that continues to upset people across Durham and provide a little accurate information that I hope spreads instead.

Each week my office receives emails and phone calls from constituents who have a concern about the viability of Canada’s Old Age Security (OAS) system.  In all cases they have received an email or read a Facebook posting about changes the government might be making to OAS because of a Bill before Parliament entitled Bill C-428.  The email chain that goes around on this issue warns people about Bill C-428 because it seeks to amend the Old Age Security Act to reduce the residence requirement for entitlement to a monthly pension and allow newcomers to receive OAS after just 3 years.  The email or posting states that the Bill will receive second reading shortly and urges the person receiving the message to contact their Member of Parliament to tell them to oppose this measure.  The constituents who do reach out to me are normally concerned that the Bill is not only profoundly unfair, but they worry that the financial viability of our OAS and pension system could be jeopardized by such a radical change to who qualifies for these benefits.

I understand their concern, but the trouble is there is no such Bill before the Parliament I sit in.  While this ridiculous Bill was brought to the House of Commons by a Liberal MP in 2009, the Bill died on the Order Paper years ago.  It is not about to become law.  In fact, the Liberal MP, Ruby Dhalla, who proposed this major change to OAS lost her seat in the last election and is no longer sitting in Parliament.  Despite the fact that these issues are years old, the email chain continues to circulate around the internet and each week angers people in our community.  I try and always tell people not to forward chain emails like this, but it is impossible to catch up with this email and Facebook phenomenon.  With this column I am hoping that more people can help me stamp out this chain letter that appears destined to live forever.

It is normally seniors who are the most upset about this issue and it is understandable why.  They helped build our country and contributed over their lifetime to receive benefits like CPP and OAS from the government and they find it unfair that people could receive such entitlements after only a couple of years in the country.  These fears are well founded because such a radical change like this could put our pension systems at financial risk, but this will never happen under our government.  Seniors deserve to know that we not only are protecting these programs to ensure they continue to help Canadians, but we are making additional investments to support seniors on fixed incomes. Since he became Prime Minister, PM Harper has established support for seniors as a key pillar of our government.  We provided for pension income splitting for senior couples and provided the largest increase to the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) in 25 years to support lower income seniors.  The Pension Income Tax Credit was doubled and the Age Credit was also increased to provide additional tax savings for seniors.  These are just a few of the changes our government has brought in over the last few years to provide more support to millions of seniors across the country.

Hopefully, this column sets the record straight on a few items, but if you ever receive an email that causes your blood to boil about one issue or another, please contact my office as we are here to try and set the record straight wherever possible.  And help us put truth’s pants on by not forwarding emails or postings on Bill C-428.  This column will be a huge victory for my entire office if we see just one or two fewer people upset by this issue each week.

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