Thursday, July 28, 2011

Canada's Pension Crisis Worsens As Harper "Government" Sits On Hands

When we start talking about Canada's pension crisis it becomes abundantly clear just how little the "Harper Government" cares about Canada's seniors. In typical Reform-a-Tory fashion they try to "create" issues within a sub-population while they ignore the real issues.

Here is Ralph Goodale's take on it:


The Harper government’s ideological straight-jacket prevents it from doing anything meaningful to enhance Canada’s public pension system.

In June, the Conservatives arbitrarily cancelled a federal-provincial meeting to examine ways of bolstering the Canada Pension Plan. Then in July, they announced a travelling road-show to promote their idea of privately-run “pooled registered pension plans” instead of the CPP.

This public relations campaign is a clear admission that Harper & Co. fully understand the political potency of the worries most Canadians have about income insecurity in their retirement. But this government just can’t bring itself to begin fixing the core problem – i.e., the insufficiency of the CPP.

The private plans being peddled by the Conservatives will be big profit-makers for the banks and insurance companies that run them. They could also be useful add-ons to a properly expanded public pension system.

All by themselves, however, Mr. Harper’s private plans will come nowhere near dealing with the reality that 75% of employees in the private sector have no workplace pension plan whatsoever.

Combine that fact with Canada’s rapidly changing demographics.

This year, the baby-boomers begin retiring in big numbers. More and more will do so with every passing year. We will soon have a shrinking workforce, but the biggest generation of senior citizens in history. And most of those seniors will not have adequate retirement incomes.

A stronger CPP is the central pillar by which these problems should be addressed.

The Canada Pension Plan is familiar to the largest percentage of Canadians. It has the biggest reach. It extracts no management fees or private profit margins. It has a superlative investment record, and (thanks to former Finance Minister Paul Martin) it’s financially secure for at least 75 years.

The best way to provide greater pension security to the largest proportion of Canadians is to build on the proven success of the CPP.

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Monday, July 18, 2011

Federal Conservatives, Ostriches, and Medicare

In the 1980s, as leader of Saskatchewan's Provincial Liberals, Ralph Goodale routinely wrote newspaper commentaries on fiscal responsibility, strategic investment advice for the (then) Devine Conservative government, and generally dispensed honest intellectual wisdom which was lauded by leading economists (and the people of Saskatchewan, on whose behalf he spoke with passion and candor). He was the ONLY Saskatchewan politician at the time embracing fiscal responsibility, at a time when the Devine Tories were creating debt like drunken Tories (whoops... I meant sailors).

It's great to see Ralph continuing to engage discussion on what is good and economically right for Canadian taxpayers.

Here is Ralph's latest update:


A commentary by the Member of Parliament for Wascana

July 18th, 2011


The federal government is behaving like an ostrich when it comes to the future of Canada’s health-care system.

With his head deep in the sand, Mr. Harper is ignoring the biggest policy elephant his government has to face – the refinancing of Canadian medicare by no later than 2014.

That’s when the existing federal-provincial-territorial Health Accord expires. It provided for $41 billion in new federal funding over 10 years, beginning in 2004.

The Harper government hasn’t added a single new penny since it took power in 2006. Neither has it followed through on the homecare or pharma-care issues which were supposed to be addressed in this period before 2014.

Instead, the Conservatives mooch credit for financing put in place in the Liberal budget of 2004. And they keep passing the buck to the provinces, denying federal responsibilities.

To make things worse, the Harper government’s trade negotiations may cause pharmaceutical costs in Canada to jump by as much as $2 - $3 billion a year.

Many Premiers are worried about two tricks the feds may pull to appear to be dealing with this “policy elephant”, while really just off-loading problems onto the provinces.

One trick would be cutting federal transfer payments for education, social programs and infrastructure in order to increase transfers for health. It would be a classic case of robbing Peter to pay Paul. The provinces would be no better off.

The other trick would be to send the provinces “tax points” instead of cash to pay for health-care. This is an old gimmick that always favours the biggest and wealthiest provinces with the most extensive tax bases, while penalizing all the rest.

Neither of these tricks is appropriate. Instead, Mr. Harper should start talking with Premiers to hear their arguments for health funding ahead of fighter jets, bigger jails and extra corporate tax cuts.

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Monday, July 11, 2011

Harper's Senate Reform? Nothing But Bad For The West

The pandora's box of Senate reform continues to be "peeked into". What does it mean for Western Canadians? Here's Ralph Goodale's take:


Stephen Harper is again pushing all his old proposals to “reform” the Senate.

It’s all a bit rich, since he has violated every promise he ever made about this much-maligned institution.

He said he would never appoint anyone to the Senate who hadn’t first been “elected” to that role in some fashion. But instead, he packed the place with more partisan cronies than any other Prime Minister in Canadian history.

He said he would never allow an appointed Senator into his Cabinet. But instead, in his very first Cabinet in 2006, he appointed a floor-crossing Liberal (David Emerson) to sit in the upper chamber, and before Emerson could even find his seat, he was elevated to Cabinet.

Knowing they were under investigation by Elections Canada for alleged wrong-doing in Conservative election financing, Mr. Harper appointed two of his closest Party confidants to the Senate, risking further embarrassment for the institution.

And then most recently, he rescued three Conservative candidates, just defeated by their voters on May 2nd, and installed them days later in the Senate. Two of them were former Conservative Senators who had only just resigned to run for the House of Commons. Their voters rejected them, and now they’re better off than if they’d won.

So pious pronouncements about Senate reform don’t ring true from Stephen Harper.

And it’s not just me who’s skeptical. At least two provinces have threatened to take Mr. Harper to court. And even former Alberta Premier, Don Getty, says the Harper scheme is wrong.

The big problem for me is simple. If you concoct some half-baked way to “elect” Senators indirectly – without actually rectifying the numbers from each region, to even-up the severe imbalance against western Canada – then you’re just entrenching the Senate’s current anti-western bias.

Elected, but unequal, just doesn’t cut it!

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Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Conservatives Continue to Underfund Vital Canadian Institutions

The RCMP are being neglected by the Conservative "government" (and we use that term loosely). Perhaps our proud national stalwarts of justice are just not as "sexy" (in the words of one Con MP) as special forces in camo fatigues brandishing AR15s.

Perhaps the force is being punished for it's pro-gun control stance (and pro-registry, we should add)?

Here is Ralph Goodale's take on this:


Earlier this spring, I met a group of Regina cab-drivers who were concerned about the City of Regina not promptly renewing their taxi licences – because the necessary security checks had not come through.

If one or two drivers had such complaints, you might think the problem was the drivers themselves – i.e., something in their background set-off alarm bells. But when 40 or 50 licence renewals are being held up all at once, there’s something else going on.

In Ottawa, I found M.P.’s from across the country were receiving exactly the same complaints – from all sorts of people working in jobs that involve trusting relationships, ranging from my taxi drivers to people handling funds for charities to volunteers coaching little league sports.

The problem seems to be a massive backlog of security checks swamping the RCMP. The Force doesn’t have the financial resources necessary to handle this workload.

So vast numbers of people in many walks of life who need security clearances are seriously inconvenienced, or sometimes put out of work.

We’ve seen trouble in the financing of the RCMP before.

There are questions about the security of their pension plan. A couple of years ago, a promised and much-deserved wage increase was summarily rolled back. When they’re handed extraordinary assignments like policing the Olympics or dealing with the G-8 summit, they’re never fully reimbursed. The RCMP Heritage Centre in Regina has been steadily under-funded.

This is no way to treat our national police force. Yes, the RCMP has had administrative and leadership difficulties in recent years – but that’s the fault of their political masters.

Canada must not allow the Mounties’ distinguished reputation to be damaged by neglect, confusion and chronic under-funding. But judging by the Harper government’s past performances, these risks are running high.

The RCMP deserve better. So does Canada.

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