Dhalla's Bill C-28 too expensive

An "urgent" message is making the rounds among "email buds" these days raising the alarm about Bill C-428, which would change the residency requirements for eligibility for Old Age Security payments.

It landed in our in-box Wednesday. At first blush, it's one of those things that raises significant alarm bells. Ontario MP Ruby Dhalla - who gained a certain amount of fame for having appeared in a Bollywood movie a few years ago and for the more recent "Nannygate" scandal - is sponsoring a bill that would reduce residency requirements from 10 years to three years for immigrants wanting to collect OAS.

The email includes an un-attributed diatribe against the bill that warns, "Thousands could come to Canada when they are 62 years old, never having worked or contributed to this country's tax system, and qualify for full Old Age Security benefits."

It continues, ". . . This bill has only one purpose, to featherbed a select group of people for votes," and urges an email uprising to stop the bill.

First of all, one must consider the source. As it turns out, the alarm-ringer for the above quotes is an anonymous blogger who calls his/her site CrookedInCanada.

Anonymity, of course, isn't necessarily a barrier to credibility, but it's of interest that the headline for those quotes is "Bill C-428 And Are Those Puppies Real." Below is a photo of Dhalla with the caption, "Nice rack, Ruby, are they fake and if they are, did taxpayers help to pay for them?"

Now, we don't know about you, but to us this raises questions about the depth of research this blogger put in on Bill C-428. Putting that aside, there's the fact that Dhalla is a Liberal and, as you know, the Liberals don't have a lot of power in Ottawa right now. Bill C-428 is a private member's bill, and private member's bills almost never see the light of day beyond introduction.

To give you an idea of how long these bills can hang around, this one was first introduced as Bill C-362 in 2006 by Liberal MP Colleen Beaumier, and later in a similar version by Tory MP Gurmant Grewal. Dhalla tabled her bill in June of last year, and now that Parliament is in session again, the Tories are panning it.

But, supposing the bill did get support. Currently, Canada has reciprocal agreements with more than 50 countries in which Canada waives residency requirements if those countries do the same. That means a senior from one of those countries can already come to Canada and qualify for OAS in three years.

Dhalla wants to extend the same courtesy to those from other nations such as China, Africa and India. The concept is backed by the Liberals, NDP and the Bloc, plus the Special Senate Committee on Aging as a way of levelling the playing field for seniors and reducing poverty. CARP, the national seniors organization, appears to be reluctant to come out one way or the other.

While an immigrant would quickly qualify for OAS, it would amount to only $38.77 per month as opposed to the $576.96 available to Canadians who qualify for the maximum. However, that $38.77 would grow to $690 with the Guaranteed Income Supplement, versus $1,169.47 at the high end.

This would cost taxpayers between $400 million and $700 million a year, depending on your source.

So, when you cut through the immature silliness about Dhalla's bustline, and all the fears of "tossing our hard-earned money around on people who have no right to this money" (as CrookedInCanada blusters), the issue comes down to two things:

Should we be signing reciprocal agreements that allow new Canadians in on our social security system in three years, and:

Given the fragile state of the economy, can we afford $400 million to $700 million to finance it?

Based on the latter, we say no to Bill C-428, but all the hysteria about it giving special treatment to immigrants at the expense of long-term Canadians is really just a lot of blather.

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