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Jonathan versus the clawback

September 25, 2014


When my friend Jonathan first became homeless he was 18-years-old. His parents’ marriage was falling apart and consequently he fell into a pattern of depression and substance abuse. The year was 1971 — a census year. Canada’s population was pegged at 21,568,311.

Forty-three years and nearly 14 million additional Canadians later, Jonathan is still homeless but he’s long since cut back his drug use. Beyond his chronic alcoholism the only things he abuses anymore are music and my patience.

And now he’s 61-years-old — only four years away from being able to retire!

In fact, the provincial government is already encouraging him to apply for his Canada Pension Plan (CPP) retirement pension.

But as a recipient of provincial social assistance it’s unlikely that Jonathan will ever see a dime of whatever pension he’s entitled to.

BC Benefits has plans for Jonathan’s Canada Pension


This morning Jonathan handed me a sheaf of papers he had received along with his welfare cheque yesterday. He wanted to know what they were about.

The sheaf consisted of only two things: a blank application form to receive a CPP retirement pension  and four copies of an already-filled-out consent form allowing the full value of Johnathan’s provincial social assistance to be deducted from said pension.

Jonathan needed to fill out and mail the CPP application form but he only needed to put his signature on each of the duplicate consent forms.

B.C. legislation requires that people receiving benefits from the provincial government apply for CPP and any other sources of income they were eligible to prior to being granted benefits — all so the province can claw back the cost of the benefits they are paying out, whether those benefits be disability or social assistance.

Probably a lot of people would see that as a fair exchange and I do also, for the most part.

Canadians can begin receiving their full Canada Pension Plan (CPP) retirement pension the month after their 65th birthday but according to Services Canada they can take a reduced pension as early as age 60.

Whatever CPP Jonathan may be entitled to, he will not be able to receive it in full until he turns 65 in 2018. If he takes it early, as the provincial government is pushing him to do, he’ll take a substantial cut — apparently something on the order of a 34 percent if he started collecting it this year.

If Jonathan waited until 2023 — after he turned 70 — to begin collecting his CPP, he would receive 42 percent more than if  he had begun taking it at age 65.

Of course none of this matters to Jonathan if he never sees the money — if BC Benefits is just going to claw back the CPP to offset his welfare benefits.

But let’s say Jonathan, or any British Columbian receiving social assistance benefits, signs up to receive an  early reduced retirement pension at the urging of the provincial government. Let’s say that at a later date they lose their social assistance benefits — they get kicked off welfare.

Then what?

I would then worry that they’re stuck collecting the much-reduced CPP retirement benefits the provincial government pushed them to apply for.

I have yet to find any information to suggest otherwise.

People receiving provincial disability benefits needn’t worry. I’ve never seen anyone get kicked of disability. The problem specifically applies to people receiving provincial  welfare benefits, which can — and routinely are — withdrawn for any number of reasons.

Jonathan tells me he’s receiving welfare but by now I think he should be receiving full disability benefits. He’s old, infirm, hard of hearing (well, tone-deaf), schizophrenic and prone to bouts of religious lunacy. He’ll certainly never hold a job again.

He has real difficulty doing any of the things that normal society requires of a person. Like for instance, he absolutely cannot understand or fill out forms. He just throws them away. Click the images to enlarge them.

  1. If you somehow magically get offered provincially subsidized housing between 60 and 65 you are also required to apply for CPP benefits. I am told by the BC Coalition for People With Disabilities that this applies to people on disability benefits as well, It is hard to imagine there being any CPP benefits for Jonathan as you take out in ratio to what you pay in. The Old Age Security Supplement is meant to compensate somewhat for low to non-existant CPP Benefits but only kicks in at 65


    • Jonathan says he’s worked as a cook at some point in the past but you’re right, his CPP potential is a thin reed for BC Benefits to grasp. I’m guessing the province would likewise want to claw back his Old Age Security.

      One binner I know got himself social housing in the Dunbar Apartments. Because the complex provides one meal-a-day, my friend had his welfare cut back from $235-per-month to a mere $60-per-month.


  2. If Jonathan gets a Disability Application package from Social Services and sees an Advocate at BCCPD they can fill out the forms for him and set him up with a doctor to complete the Medical portion. I had a 3 week turnaround and approval with their help


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