Smokey Seidel began collecting his pension eight years ago and since then he estimates he’s lost an equivalent of $12,000 to inflation.
Seidel, now a Cochrane resident, is originally from the United Kingdom and he collects his pension from the British government. Due to the absence of an agreement between the United Kingdom and Canada for pension uprating — where the amount of funds given is adjusted for inflation year-to-year — his pension has been frozen at the rate he first received back in 2010.
“When I first started claiming it, it would have been 100 Pounds per week,” Seidel said.
But after eight years, he said he should now be receiving approximately 125 British Pounds per week, instead it remains 25 per cent lower.
The problem isn’t unique to Cochrane or Canada.
Ian Andexser, chairman of the Canadian Alliance of British Pensioners — an organization with more than 5,000 members across the country working to fight the British government on pension freezing — said it appears to be a problem faced by the majority of Common Wealth countries.
However, countries including United States, Germany, Republic of North Macedonia, and Samoa, for example, do have agreements with the British government to adjust pensions with inflation.
“There are 53 Common Wealth countries and 47 of them do not receive any indexation,” Andexser told the Cochrane Eagle. “It’s wrong, it’s unjust, it’s totally unfair.”
The fight for amending the lack of indexation has been on ongoing battle for more than 25 years and there have been several unsuccessful legal battles. However, Andexser maintains that there are British politicians who side with British pensioners retiring abroad who wish to see their pensions uprated.
“We now have well over 50 per cent of the British MPs on our side, the entire liberal party in the United Kingdom support the end to pension freezing,” Andexser said.
There are 1,250 Cochrane residents – 59,215 in Alberta – who identified the UK as their place of birth according to the 2016 federal census profile conducted in 2016. Those residents, if they had previously worked in the UK and haven’t already began collecting their British pension, will face the same pension freezing rate from the moment they begin drawing it if the issue isn’t resolved.
Seidel said he recalls acquaintances of his having to move back to the UK because their low pension rate was adding to their financial hardships.
“A few years ago, a couple that I knew through the Camera Club, they in fact had to return to the UK because they could no longer afford to live in Cochrane — the money, the British pension they got couldn’t stretch far enough,” he said. “It was a big upheaval. They had to leave all their family members here, in a sense, almost start a new life again in the UK, you know trying to find a new place to live etcetera. For some people it had a particularly big impact.”
Siedel, who is also a member of the Canadian Alliance of British Pensioners, said he has other financial income, but the fact he is losing out on funds from the British government is unjust.
“It’s money, and you don’t want to lose money,” he said. “My interest in the organization in this is to try and correct things for people who really are quite dramatically impacted by this and really as a point of principle with the British government because we feel that we’ve been cheated in the sense that we paid all the contributions for this pension with certain expectations and the British government is not prepared to meet those expectations.”
The Canadian Alliance for British Pensioners is holding a meeting on June 23 at 2 p.m. in Cochrane at the Frank Wills Memorial Hall. Its goal is to recruit members — a membership is $25 annually — and to inform Cochranites from the UK about their British pensions.
“One hundred per cent of the money we raise is basically used to fight the government in the UK to put an end to this,” he said adding that the organization spends roughly $5,000 per month to their legal representatives in the UK.
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