Seniors are dedicated voters and political parties are courting their support with promises to enhance pensions.

ELECTION 2015: Battle over pensions, pay stubs

Expanding Canada Pension Plan or more voluntary savings in tax-free savings accounts are among choices for voters

Pensions and payroll deductions to finance them are a key battleground for the Oct. 19 federal election.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau sparked debate by endorsing the Ontario government’s plan to launch a provincial version of the Canada Pension Plan, with mandatory payroll deductions to finance it.

The Liberal Party platform says only that a Trudeau government “will work with the provinces and territories, workers, employers and retiree organizations to enhance the Canada Pension Plan.”

NDP leader Thomas Mulcair has made a similar pledge to expand the CPP, noting that Ontario and Prince Edward Island have already put forward pension proposals. He plans to convene a meeting with provinces within six months of forming a government. (NDP platform here.)

Conservative leader Stephen Harper has rejected mandatory expansion, but has said he would consider a system of voluntary additional contributions to CPP. The Conservatives have promoted an increase in tax-free savings account limits to $10,000 per year and income splitting for married seniors. (Conservative platform here.)

Conservative Finance Minister Joe Oliver said for an employee earning $60,000 a year, theĀ Ontario pension would reduce take-home pay by $1,000 a year, and similar payments by employers would lead to reduced employment.

The Green Party platform also promises to expand the CPP, but provides no details.

Trudeau and Mulcair have both denied Harper’s allegation that they plan to eliminate pension income splitting. Both have also vowed to cancel the Conservative plan to raise the eligibility age for Old Age Security payments from 65 to 67, which would not take full effect until 2029.

OAS is not a pension plan, but a taxpayer-funded program that pays $565 per month for all seniors, in addition to the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) that provides up to $766 per month to qualifying low-income seniors. OAS is progressively taxed back for seniors whose combined income from other source exceeds $72,809.

In an interview last week, Harper said his government has provided the biggest increase in the GIS in 25 years, and defended the move to phase in a higher eligibility age for OAS, starting in 2023.

“We’re doing, frankly, what most other Western democratic countries do, make adjustments based on demographics,” Harper said.

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