OTTAWA ― The President of the Canadian Labour Congress says the Conservative government is blocking all attempts to improve the Canada and Quebec Pension Plans, and Ken Georgetti is calling on ordinary citizens to help provincial governments push back against that irresponsible decision.
Georgetti was commenting on a meeting of federal and provincial finance ministers in Ottawa and at Meech Lake on December 15-16. Following the meeting, federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty poured cold water on the idea of enhancing the CPP/QPP at any time in the foreseeable future.
“The Conservatives should be taking leadership on a matter of urgency to Canadians but they are the obstacle,” Georgetti says, “Every time the provinces put forward proposals Minister Flaherty gives them a lump of coal and he has done it again today.”
Georgetti dismisses as “fear mongering” the comments from Minister Flaherty and some special interest groups that the economy is too fragile to accommodate even a modest increase in CPP contributions. “Many of these same people predicted disaster when then Finance Minister Paul Martin increased CPP contributions in the late 1990s to put the plan on a more secure footing. The Canadian economy actually improved and employment grew notwithstanding the dire predictions.”
Georgetti says he applauds the provinces, who are continuing to work for an improved CPP, but says they need help. “Fully 60% of Canadians have no workplace pension plan and the Conservatives do not seem to care. It is time that ordinary people step up and tell Mr. Flaherty and his friends that they will pay a political price for their actions.”
The labour movement has been advocating since 2009 for a modest, phased-in and achievable proposal to double future benefits under the CPP on a fully-funded basis. According to the CLC proposal, the basic pension floor for retirees in the future would rise from the current level of $12,150 a year to a far more livable $24,300. “For about the price of one cup of coffee a day we could be on the way to providing real retirement security for Canadians,” Georgetti says.
Georgetti adds that the alternative to improving the CPP is for the Canadian government to use the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) to continue subsidizing businesses that don’t offer pension plans to their employees. “If we do nothing to improve pensions now, the combined tab to taxpayers from Old Age Security (OAS) and GIS will grow from $43 billion today to $140 billion by 2040.”
The CLC has launched a nation-wide petition at www.pensionfairness.ca to gather signatures from across the country in December and January. The petition demands that Ottawa work with provincial and territorial governments to increase pension benefits without delay under the CPP/QPP.
The Canadian Labour Congress, the national voice of the labour movement, represents 3.3 million Canadian workers. The CLC brings together Canada’s national and international unions along with the provincial and territorial federations of labour and 130 district labour councils. Web site: www.canadianlabour.ca Follow us on Twitter @CanadianLabour