Every few years some political party terrifies the wealthier citizens of Canada by urging a further boost in the old-age pension, on the ground that no elderly person can possibly live on the stipend he is getting. Whenever this happens, anguished editorials point out that the old-age pension was never intended as a living wage, that it is only supposed to be a supplement to personal savings, and that any further increase will tumble us into bankruptcy, inflation, ruination and the welfare state.
However, since few people are rich and since many remain stubbornly in favor of welfare, we predict that the old-age pension will continue to rise from time to time as the years go by. But for the comfort both of those who want a pension they can live on, and of those who want to keep the cost down, we have a constructive suggestion:
Remove the prohibition against old-age pensioners leaving Canada for more than six months at a time.
It may be impossible to live in Canada on fifty-five dollars a month, but in some parts of the world it is easy. By no coincidence, these happen also to be parts of the world where the climate is less severe, where a man doesn’t have to spend about a quarter of a minimum income just keeping himself warm, and where the evening of life can be spent in more comfort than Canada provides. Even in such an advanced and northerly country as Germany, a returning German diplomat. recently found that his salary goes about twice as far as it went in Ottawa. In places like Majorca, or the islands in the eastern Mediterranean, or the less tourist-struck parts of the West Indies, a Canadian old-age pensioner would almost be classed among the rich.
To let him go there, if he likes, would not cost the Canadian taxpayer a nickel. The objection that he would be spending his modest income abroad, instead of buying from Canadian merchants and paying rent to a Canadian landlord, strikes us as mean-minded pettifoggery. The slightly stronger objection, that this type of emigration might make tax evasion easier, could be met by simple changes in the law—e.g., no one would be entitled to pension who is avoiding Canadian income tax.
But even if there were other and stronger reasons against it, this freedom for old-age pensioners is a matter of right. The old-age pension is not charity. It is an annuity from the state to which we all contribute, and have been contributing for some time—no one gets it who has lived in Canada less than ten. years.
Having paid for it, we ought to be free to take it and spend it where we choose.
The story you want is part of the Maclean’s Archives. To access it, log in here or sign up for your free 30-day trial.
Experience anything and everything Maclean's has ever published — over 3,500 issues and 150,000 articles, images and advertisements — since 1905. Browse on your own, or explore our curated collections and timely recommendations.WATCH THIS VIDEO for highlights of everything the Maclean's Archives has to offer.