My Canadian government is making me crazy!

And they are going to be the death of me, literally. Ever since coming to Mexico in September of 2017 I have struggled to live on my pathetic Canadian pensions, the CPP (Canada Pension Plan), the OAS (Old Age Security) and the GIS (Guaranteed Income Supplement). Your pensions are based on the contributions that you, and often your employers, make during your lifetime of working. My many careers rarely involved working for someone else in a normal nine to five job so my contributions weren’t all that much. That being said my ex always worked regular jobs so she made lots of contributions. When I was about to turn sixty-five the government asked me if I wanted what’s called income splitting. Bonus! So when I turned sixty-five I received the CPP and OAS and because those were so low I qualified for the GIS. This only brought me up to about fifteen hundred dollars a month, or about five thousand dollars below the poverty level in Canada. I have fought with every government of the day about this but not gotten anywhere. 

When I planned to return to Mexico after my first six-month visit I knew that I would lose the GIS after I had been out of the country for more than six months. This I also disagreed with because if you can’t afford to live on your pensions in Canada you have no choice but to find somewhere else with a lower cost of living. Why then do you lose a pension you have paid into all of your life? So much for guaranteed. My Plan A was to earn enough money from my websites to offset losing the GIS. Well, Plan A never materialized. As John  Lennon so famously said, “life is what happens while you are busy making other plans”. I am living proof of that one.

A couple of weeks ago I get a mail delivery of a letter, dated April 9th, along with a bunch of documents. It was from the CPP/OAS Integrity Services office in Toronto. I read the letter and looked at the questions and figure this is what I have been dreading. It looked like I was going to lose the GIS, which is about five hundred dollars, or a third of my income. This was NOT good news. The letter stated that I needed to return the questionnaire by May 24th or it may result in benefit suspension. I immediately emailed a contact at Service Canada who had been incredibly helpful when I had pension issues back in Ecuador. I asked how I could send the questionnaire by email because there was no point sending it by mail. No response.    

So, how could things get any worse? Well, when I checked my bank last Friday, the day that my pensions were to be deposited, I got NOTHING! No CPP! No OAS! No GIS. Nothing! Panic set in. How was I going to pay my rent? How was I going to eat? How would I get my critical diabetic meds? My stress level went off the chart. As a diabetic, I am already at great risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke, particularly when I have been out of my meds for six months now. Every morning when I wake up I am pleasantly surprised that I actually did. 

The first thing I did was contact Adrianna at my Member of Parliament’s office, Neil Ellis, back in Belleville. She called Service Canada and learned that, yes, my pensions were on suspension, but they wouldn’t talk to her because of Canada’s ridiculous privacy laws. She said I had to call the guy who signed the letter, Victor Sokolov, the investigator with CPP/OAS Integrity Services. In the meantime, I had spent about eight hours scanning the forms and adding the information that they requested. One page surprised me a little because they showed the dates I had traveled between Canada and Mexico. How did they know that? I thought we had a Privacy Act? Apparently not when you are the government. I emailed the package to Adrianna. One issue I had with the forms was the last page where it asked me to sign, date and have it witnessed. I didn’t know any of the people on their list of approved people who could witness, so I had stated this on the form. I figured that Adrianna had known me for years, knew my signature and in a worst-case scenario might be willing to witness my signature. She certainly knows beyond question that this is me. She told me to call the investigator. Of course, I did but got his voicemail. Called him again later on Google Hangouts, praying we would have a better than usual connection with my horrible internet. We did.

After we went through the usual identification questions and answers he pulled up his file. While he was doing this I explained what dire straits I was left in when I didn’t get my pensions. I told him I couldn’t pay my upcoming rent or buy food or my meds. No response. The first thing he tells me is that my benefits should have been suspended when mail was returned from my then defunct address in Belleville (Hello! I was in Mexico!) and calls could not be completed to my equally defunct cell phone number in Canada. Oh, thanks! Great news! Just the first mistake they made. How was this helping me today? Then he tells me that mail sent in February to my address in Mexico, which Adrianna had updated my address records on with them, was returned because it was addressed to 53 and not 63. Again, my fault? Nope. He then says he called me when they got the returned mail. My number with them here in Mexico is correct, but he says he just got a fast busy signal, which happens often in Mexico when all the circuits are busy. Did he try again? Nope. My fault? Nope. After the mail to the wrong address had been returned and he couldn’t reach me by phone he suspended my pensions. What? Seriously? 

Despite totally agreeing that none of this was my fault and it was clearly all their fault, he does nothing to correct their mistakes and get my pensions deposited. I tell him that I have completed the questionnaire and sent it to Adrianna, but he says the government doesn’t use email. What? How about joining this century? Then, like an idiot, just trying to avoid any more problems, I tell him about the witnessing or lack thereof. No good. Yet another problem. He tells me that it has to be witnessed by someone approved on their list. I tell him that my downstairs neighbor is a retired teacher, which is on the list and that he has known me for a year. Retired, he says? I ask if his retirement no longer means he’s a teacher and finally he agrees to let him witness my signature. Progress. Then I ask him how to get the document to him. This is no joke, I swear. He tells me to mail it to him! I can’t pay my rent. I have no money for food or meds and he tells me to mail it to him? Seriously? Now I know what a total idiot I am dealing with here. Finally, he agrees that I can scan and email it to Adrianna, as long as she calls him and guarantees that she is going to send it by overnight courier to him. Once he receives that assurance from Adrianna he will consider releasing my CPP, which is barely enough to pay my rent.

It gets better. Despite the dates of my travel being shown on their questionnaire he wants confirming travel documents of my flights. for the last two years. I ask who keeps paperwork from flights? He says to contact the airline, but I tell him that this was AeroMexico who are a total nightmare to deal with, but he says to contact them. He also tells me to contact the Canada Border Services Agency to request a Travel History Report. Again I ask why when they showed the dates on the questionnaire, so they already had that information, but as a typical brain-dead government employee, it doesn’t matter.

Now growing more and more frustrated and stressed beyond belief I contact CBSA to request the report. What I get back is an application to complete under that dreaded Privacy Act again. It does show a link to fill it out online, which surprises me for such an archaic government. There’s hope. First, the website won’t load. Then when I finally get it and start filling out the form I get an error on a page, telling me I failed to enter mandatory information. I go back to the page to check and I have filled in every single mandatory field, those marked with an asterisk, as noted. No matter how many times I enter the information I still get the same error and I can’t go any further. Just more delays when I am so beyond desperate. 

After all this I have written to the federal Minister responsible for pensions, with a copy to the Prime Minister, giving them this whole story and adding that there will be a letter on my cold, dead body clearly blaming my government for my demise. I added that this will not bode well for the Prime Minister when he is up for re-election this fall. I’m not sure anyone really cares about the demise of one Canadian citizen in a foreign country, but I’ve also copied the CBC network, who love a juicy story blaming the government. Who knows? Hopefully I will help someone else avoid this nightmare.