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1867-1914 - Old Age and Poverty 1915-1927 - Our First Old Age Pension 1928-1951 - Demanding More 1952-1967 - Reducing Poverty 1968-1989 - Reaching More Canadians 1990-2000 - Pensions on Solid Ground 2000 on - A Secure Future

1952-1967 Reducing Poverty


NAC detail of PA-117097 L.B. Pearson and Judy LaMarsh , Nov 1960. (photo: Roels, Ron).

Old Age Security (OAS), the first universal pension for Canadians, was introduced in 1952:

  • The maximum pension was $40 per month or $480 per year.
  • The pension was available to Canadians 70 years of age and over who had lived in Canada for 20 years.
  • Status Indians were included.
  • For the first time, Canadian seniors could receive a pension without undergoing a "means test".

However, retirement still meant a drastically reduced standard of living for many people. There was growing public and political support for a universal, employment-based pension plan that would be portable from job to job. The provinces agreed to another Constitutional amendment to extend federal government powers beyond legislation that applied only to old age.

As a result, the contributory Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Quebec Pension Plan (QPP) were established in 1966:

  • The plans protected workers and their families from loss of income due to retirement.
  • Death, survivor and disability benefits were provided.
  • Recipients received benefits based on the amount they contributed.
  • Status Indians were not included.

The Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) was introduced in 1967 as a temporary measure to further reduce poverty among seniors.

The GIS:

  • was part of the Old Age Security program;
  • provided low-income Old Age Security pensioners with additional money;
  • helped those who would retire before they benefited from the Canada Pension Plan;
  • was income-tested, meaning that as the amount of income increased (to a maximum of $720 for a single pensioner), the amount of the supplement decreased.

By the 100th anniversary of Confederation, in 1967, Canada's current retirement income system was in place.

What happened next?

Compare with today.

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Quebec Pension Plan:

The Canada Pension Plan (CPP) statute permits provinces to opt out of the CPP if they develop a similar contributory program that provides retirement and supplementary benefits.

In 1966, Quebec introduced the Quebec Pension Plan as a sister program to the CPP. It has the same contributory scheme and provides retirement, disability and survivor benefits. Representatives of Quebec, the other provinces and the Government of Canada work together to ensure that all Canadian workers and their families are protected.

In 2000, Quebec paid $6 billion in benefits to about 1.3 million residents of the province.