The cuts Stephen Harper wants to make to Old Age Security are driven by ideology, not necessity. Consider the Public Appointments Commission and the Employment Insurance Financing Board. Both departments were set up by the Conservatives. And, although both agencies are on record as having nothing to do, the government intends to keep them going.
Neither agency has been part of the government's review of spending. Yet Harper claims that -- while such zombie departments can be tolerated -- the Old Age Security program is "unsustainable." That claim, Tom Walkom writes in the Toronto Star, is pure Harperian balderdash:
True, the government predicts that the cost of pensions for the elderly, now about $35.6 billion, will triple by 2030. That sounds dire. In fact it means that the pension bill will grow by about 5.6 per cent a year during the period.
And when baby boomers start to die off, as they will from about 2020, spending on the elderly will start to decelerate on its own.
Harper claims that he is merely saving Canada from the kinds of problems which Europe is facing. But his diagnosis of the cause of those problems -- an out of control welfare state -- is simply wrong. Walkom writes:
In fact, the European debt crisis is far more complex. Spain and Ireland, which do not offer generous social programs, are in trouble. Germany, which does, is not.
Arguably, the real root cause of the crisis was the decision by countries with vastly different economies to use a common currency, the euro — a decision that encouraged too much public and private borrowing during the good times and makes repayment now near impossible.
The truth is that Stephen Harper will cut what he doesn't like -- not what doesn't work. The man who insists he's the smartest guy in the room is really not a very bright fellow. Still, he has proved in the past that he has a talent for seizing expediency.