Planning Your Retirement Income

By Olev Edur

I’m 61 and live alone, and I’ve been a construction labourer since coming to Canada 25 years ago. Unfortunately, my back has begun to give out. I’m getting some Employment Insurance (EI), and I’m told I can start collecting Canada Pension Plan (CPP) benefits, but then I may lose my EI. Either way, the money isn’t a lot. Is there any other help I can get?

First, you may be entitled to the CPP disability benefit rather than the regular retirement benefit, and this may give you a bit of extra money until you turn 65; to qualify for this benefit, you’ll need to get a doctor’s certificate attesting to your inability to work. Once you’re 65, you’ll be entitled to Old Age Security (OAS) and its adjunct, the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS), which could mean substantially more income.

Meanwhile, as you live in Toronto, you should consider applying for the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), which could also provide benefits until you turn 65—as long as you qualify (again, you’ll need a doctor’s certification). If you do qualify, your benefit will be reduced by your EI (or vice versa), and if you apply for CPP, that will also reduce your ODSP. Therefore, you probably shouldn’t apply for CPP until you’ve ascertained your ODSP status. You may also be entitled to some City of Toronto welfare benefits, depending on your financial and personal situation.

Because the whole subject of disability benefits can get quite complicated, I suggest you find a community services counsellor in your area who can guide you through the maze. If you have access to a computer (perhaps at your local library), you can do a search for “social service organizations in Toronto” and make an appointment with a counsellor at one of these—even if they don’t have all the answers, they can steer you in the right direction.