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Doubling health care premiums for retired federal service employees is not right, says area advocate
A plan by the federal Conservatives to double the monthly health care premiums paid by retired federal public servants – including RCMP officers, members of the Canadian military and federal judges – will outrage most Canadians, says the president of the South Okanagan branch of the Federal Superannuates National Association (FSNA), which represents almost 200,000 retired members across Canada.
“This has come completely out of the blue … and the only reason we know anything about it was because the National Post had an article about a few weeks ago in July,” said Lynn Jackson, who worked for 35 years with Service Canada before retiring several years ago.
The Conservative plan would see the health care premiums for a retired federal employee who was married double from just over $500 a year to more than $1,000, said Jackson.
While there are some federal employees who enjoy very generous pensions, there are hundreds of thousands who do not and many of them would feel an enormous financial strain if these increases are allowed to go through, said Jackson.
“Our workers work in every facet of the public service and the average pension is $27,000 … and that lowers to $21,000 per year if you’re a single woman,” she said. “I know many of our pensioners across the South Okanagan get considerably less than this.”
This is an effort by the Conservative government to try and bring public servants’ benefits and compensation more in line with the private sector, said Jackson.
The biggest problem is tens of thousands of federal public servants accepted minimal wage increases and improvements to their benefits plan for the past several years after the federal government promised that health care premiums would remain stable after these workers retired, she said.
“Promises were made and these promises are apparently being broken and no one with the federal government has had the decency to tell us about it,” she said. “Our members were promised that health care premiums would not be touched …and to read that they might actually be doubled is very shocking.”
The FSNA is organizing a massive publicity campaign to protest these proposed increases, said Jackson.
“The reaction has been very strong and we all agree we have to fight back as a collective,” she said. “All of our members have been asked to contact their local MP, whether they are members of the current government or in opposition, and we have also organized a paper petition and online petition.”
The FSNA is also asking members to write letters to the editor at local newspapers to voice their concerns and opposition to the Conservative plan, she said.
The FSNA’s national board will also be meeting later in September and will be announcing further steps to protest the plan, she said.
If the government plans to dramatically increase health care premiums for members of the armed forces, other Canadians should be very scared, said Jackson.
“We’re talking about people who represented this country and risked their lives for this country,” she said. “When they retired from active duty, the government made a commitment that they will pay 75 per cent of health care premiums.
“We don’t feel this government has honoured that promise to our retired veterans. If they can break that promise to our veterans, then the rest of Canadians should be very concerned about what might happen to their health care premiums.”
Alex Atamanenko, the MP for B.C. Southern Interior, sent a letter two weeks ago to Tony Clement, the president of the federal Treasury Board, voicing his opposition to the proposed increases.
“As you are aware, many retired members of our federal civil service have a very small pension and will be unable to bear the cost of this increase,” said Atamanenko in his letter. “What I find particularly disturbing is that the Treasury Board is considering breaking the promises it made to retired employees. The federal government committed to providing retired employees with a pension and health care insurance as compensation for their service.
“Tens of thousands of retirees from the public service, the Canadian Forces and the RCMP will be affected by this shift in government policy. I urge you to uphold the commitment made to federal government employees and to cancel any proposal to double health care premiums.”
Atamanenko said the NDP would be voicing its opposition to this proposal as soon as Parliament resumes.
“We see this as an unfair attack on vulnerable pensioners once they have retired and no longer have a unified voice,” he said. “We will be asking the Conservative government what they will do to pull back on this plan.”