Will the Harper government increase the qualifying age for old age security?

Last year France's Nicolas Sarkozy faced mass protests over his decision to raise the retirement age to 67.

In 2000, the United States moved to raise their retirement age to 67.  And, in  2007, the UK government pegged their retirement age at 68.

Could Canada be next?

While there's been no word of an increase in the qualifying age for CPP benefits, there could be a change with regards old age security (OAS) and the guaranteed income supplement for seniors (GIS).

Anonymous Conservative sources told the National Post that "there is some debate" about increasing the age of eligibility for those programs from 65 to 67, in the 2012 budget.

OAS, the National Post reports, is available to Canadian citizens and permanent residents age 65 and older, and currently pays $533 a month.

The guaranteed income supplement  is a non-taxable benefit available to low income seniors.

Neither should be confused with CPP, which is a contributory earnings related pension plan paid in addition to OAS for those who have contributed.

Raising the retirement age could save taxpayers a considerable amount of money.

Internal documents obtained by The Globe and Mail show the cost of providing OAS to Canadians 65 and over is on track to climb from $36.5-billion in 2010 to $48-billion in 2015 — an increase of 32 per cent — before rising to over $108 billion in 2030.

While the Prime Minister's office calls the National Post story "speculation," it's clear that the government is focused on developing policies to tackle the growing costs associated with an aging population.

Earlier this week, finance minister Jim Flaherty introduced a new health care funding model for the provinces that would tie health funding increases to nominal GDP by 2017.

Last week, the Harper government repealed the section of the Canadian Human Rights Act that required workers to retire at age 60 or 65 in federally regulated industries such as banking, communications, and transport.

And, in 2009, the National Post notes the government introduced changes to CPP aimed at encouraging people to wait longer before claiming benefits.

Former Human Resources Minister Monte Solberg, who retired from politics in October, 2008, told the Globe and Mail incentives for older workers were among the easiest options — politically speaking — available to the Conservatives in the face of an aging population.

But he says changing the retirement age, in terms of eligibility for CPP, would be a controversial move.

"It's a very real problem,"Solberg told the Globe and Mail last August.

"It's easily the largest unfunded liability that we have, without question, because we have this wave coming at us [and] there's no extra money that's set aside to address it."

(Saskatoon StarPhoenix photo)