No survivor’s pension because you marry too late?
The Bloc Québécois reacts to the broken promise
When the Liberals formed the government after the 2015 election, Prime Minister Trudeau proposed to abolish the “marriage after 60 years” clause in the Canadian Forces Pension Plan Act. That objective was stated in the mandate of the Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of Defence. This abolition had been claimed for decades by associations of veterans.
Given the specific direction of the Prime Minister, we expected that it would get done and, hopefully, be followed by the abolition of the other restrictive clause, “marriage after retirement”, contained in other pension plan acts. But the change was never seriously considered and, early in 2019, it was abandoned. Instead, a financial assistance program was created for military widows deprived of a survivor pension.
During the second term of the liberal government, following the 2019 election, the Bloc Québécois MP Luc Desilets was the critic for Veterans Affairs issues and Vice-president of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs. Last May, at a regular meeting with the minister, Lawrence MacAulay, he raised questions about the reasons for putting aside the Prime Minister Trudeau‘s commitment to change the legislation.
Mr MacAulay’s answers were elusive and unsatisfying.
Mr Desilets decided to return to the attack, reaffirming, in a letter to the Minister, the need for the removal of the “after 60 years” provision and of the other restriction, “marriage after retirement”, as well. He concluded his message by pressing the Minister to re-examine the feasibility of such a change in the legislation on pensions.
The letter, co-signed by MP Andréanne Larouche, critic for Seniors and for Women and Gender Equality, was sent to the Minister on June 16, 2021.
To read the letter, click here.
Your MP needs to know about this issue
The origins of this legislation go back to 1901 and MPs we have spoken to are surprised that it still exists. While we continue pressuring Government to change the legislation, your story, in your words, will add a very powerful voice.
Write a personal letter to your MP and ask why this archaic legislation should still exist. If your spouse will be affected by the legislation, tell about the worry it causes. If you are a surviving spouse who has already been denied a pension, describe the dreadful impact it has had on your life.
We are pleased to answer a few questions you may have, and provide a guide to help you write your letter.
Some questions you may have
Does it matter if my MP is not a Liberal?
No. The government is in a minority and the opposition parties have increased influence. But first, your MP needs to hear from you.
I have already been denied a pension. How does this help me?
While Government drags its feet, many more surviving spouses like you are left destitute. We believe you should get a pension. Your MP can help but won’t understand until hearing about the way it has affected your life.
Is there a form letter?
Form letters don’t have much impact. To an MP, a hundred people sending the identical letter is the same as only one letter, and has very little influence. But, when an MP gets personal letters, the words are meaningful and significantly increase the chances of getting action.
Do not tell yourself: “I won’t bother. Others will write.” You have a lot at stake, and your MP needs to hear from you.
What will it cost to send letters to MPs?
Nothing. When you send a letter to any Member of Parliament, postage is not required . Our suggestion is to print “No Postage Required” or OHMS. where you would normally put a stamp.
You can also send an email. You can find all MPs here and clicking on the MP’s picture takes you to their contact information.
Tips for writing to your MP
You are writing to your MP because a personal note is far more effective than any other communication. Your words have power. Use them well.
Getting ready to write
Spend a few minutes thinking about what you want to say, and jot down a few notes. These reminders are important because you don’t want to finish your letter and then realize you forgot to say something.
Use your own words. It may be tempting to use quotations but this letter is about you and your worries. Your MP will be more receptive to a personal note.
Don’t bury the headline
The very first item in your letter should be a very clear statement of your purpose. Let your MP know immediately why you are writing.
Keep things cordial
Let people with other issues get grumpy and make threats or “yell” at their Member of Parliament. Your MP would rather help someone who is courteous.
Make it personal
If you are a retiree, explain the impact the legislation will have if your spouse should be left without a pension. Are you worrying constantly? Let your MP know.
If you are a surviving spouse who has been denied a pension, be very clear about what the legislation has done to you. For example, if you had to sell your home to survive, make sure your MP knows. If you are using a food bank, say so. Et cetera.
Solicit answers and opinions
Don’t allow your Member of Parliament to read your letter and file it away. Ask one or two questions that require your MP to take a position and provide an answer. Examples:
- What does your MP think of the legislation?
- Ask how they feel about a policy that increases poverty among seniors.
- Does he or she think it’s fair that you should be in this awful position?
- If your MP disagrees with the legislation, will he or she commit to doing something about it? What will they do?
- Does your MP know that he or she is also affected by it?
- Ask your MP if they will support other party’s initiatives.
- If your MP is a Liberal, ask how this legislation gibes with their party’s commitment to reducing poverty among seniors.
- Et cetera.
Make yourself available
Make sure your MP knows how to reach you by email, letter, or phone in case they want to follow up.
Express your appreciation
MPs are busy people and there are many people contacting them. Be sure to say “Thank you” for your MP’s time and attention.