The late 1970s and early 1980s was a period in which many important reforms were made to Canada's public pension system. Monique Bégin, Minister of National Health and Welfare between 1977 and 1984, oversaw many of these reforms, including the signing of the first international social security agreement, the introduction of partial Old Age Security pensions and numerous increases in the Guaranteed Income Supplement in an attempt to make Canadian public pensions more fair.
Arthur Jacob "Jake" Epp (b. 1939) a prominent Conservative from the Manitoba riding of Provencher was first elected in 1972. Mr. Epp served in the government of Brian Mulroney as Minister of National Health and Welfare and helped to put in place several significant new provisions in the Canada Pension Plan. These included: a flexible retirement pension payable as early as 60; higher disability benefits; continuation of survivor benefits on remarriage; sharing of retirement pensions between spouses or common-law partners; and expansion of credit-splitting to cover the separation of married or common-law partners.
"There have been major changes. I mentioned the RRIFs, the RRSPs and the PBSAs. We have made changes to the Canada Pension Plan which are as dramatic as the introduction of CPP in 1966. We also made changes to the spousal allowance." (Commons Debates. 1967-1988. Blank Session, Blank Parliament, Ottawa, 1988, p. 5764.)
Monique Bégin (b. 1936), representing the ridings of Saint-Michel and Saint-Léonard-Anjou, was also the first woman from Quebec elected to the House of Commons when she became a Liberal Member of Parliament in 1972. Before becoming Minister of National Health and Welfare, Bégin served as Executive Secretary to the Royal Commission on the Status of Women from 1969 to 1970. Her interest in women's issues can be seen in other changes to the public pension system, which she oversaw. These included the splitting of Canada Pension Plan pension credits upon the break-up of a couple (implemented in 1978), and the addition of the Child Rearing Drop-Out provision to the Canada Pension Plan in 1983.
Interest in reforming and improving Canada's public pension programs grew over the late 1960s and 1970s as people from many different governmental and private sector organizations began to study the issue of aging more generally.
In 1966, experts from a number of countries met at the Canadian Conference on Aging in Toronto. Among them were Reverend André-Marie Guillemette from the Université de Montréal and Reuben C. Baetz from the Canadian Council of Welfare (now the Canadian Council on Social Development), both of whom emphasized the need for younger Canadians to become more aware of the problems faced by seniors.
Reverend André-Marie Guillemette (1907-1986), former Director, Institute of Gerontology, Université de Montréal:
"If through a policy and an attitude which belittles the elderly we are depreciating in advance the youth which will someday grow old, our whole society will suffer as a result … Old age should become, for all who are affected by it, a call to greatness, an occasion for meditation and for lending a hand. Far from being a winter, it should be a mellow season of light and fruitfulness". (Reverend André-Marie Guillemette, "Future Action on Behalf of the Aging," in Proceedings of the Canadian Conference on Aging. Toronto, 1966, p. 62)
Reuben C. Baetz (1923-1996), former Executive Director of the Canadian Welfare Council:
"I cannot but believe that much more can and should be done to bring younger people to a fuller realization of their own stake in old age - and consequently to taking a more active part in planning and action for the elderly. Perhaps in our PR-minded society what is needed … is a massive advertising campaign …" (Reuben C. Baetz, " The Significance of the Conference for Canada," in Proceedings of the Canadian Conference on Aging, Toronto, 1966. p.80)
In 1985, Solange Denis (b. 1922), a 63-year-old Ottawa woman, made national media headlines during a protest by seniors of the Conservative government's plan to limit the inflation protection on Old Age Security pensions. Denis strongly attacked Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, contending that "You made promises that you wouldn't touch anything…you lied to us. I was made to vote for you and then it's Goodbye Charlie Brown," ("You 'lied' on pensions, Mulroney told", Toronto Star (June 20, 1985).) said Denis. The government later backed down on the proposal.