Monday, March 11, 2013

Liberal Vision - Canada Pension Plan

Ralph Goodale discusses new options and ideas to help strengthen the Canada Pension Plan.

A commentary by the Member of Parliament for Wascana

March 11th, 2013


Reciting spin-lines from the Prime Minister’s Office, Conservatives claim they’re open to good ideas for their now long-delayed 2013 Budget, but they just don’t get any from other Members of Parliament.  Nice spin, but not true.

There’s no shortage of constructive suggestions.

For example, to support job creation, Liberals have urged the Harper government to stop their annual $600-million increases in job-killing EI payroll taxes.  To promote fairness, we’ve called for sensible changes in family tax credits and disability savings plans to include those who most need this kind of help.  We’ve suggested practical measures to tear-down barriers to higher learning and to bolster innovation and infrastructure.

The Conservatives have only one response – more austerity. 

Their only priority is further cuts to federal programs and services to reduce their self-inflicted deficit.  They’re not concerned about economic inequality.  They have no agenda for growth and productivity.  In fact, their mindless cutting could actually shrink aggregate demand and make growth more difficult.

Seriously deficient retirement incomes are another issue this government ignores.

Indeed, they’ve made things worse.  One of Mr. Harper’s first major moves was to kill Income Trusts, thus destroying about $25-billion in the savings accounts of some 2-million Canadians.  More recently, he undermined Old Age Pensions by delaying the eligibility age by two years, thus taking about $30,000 from the most vulnerable seniors.

Significantly, Mr. Harper had solemnly promised he would never do either of these things.  Somehow, integrity seems to have slipped his mind.

But the 2013 Budget could take constructive steps to help the 70% of Canadians who don’t have adequate pensions. They could be allowed to make “voluntary supplementary” contributions to the Canada Pension Plan to top-up their savings. 

The CPP is sound and strong (thanks to far-sighted changes initiated by former Finance Minister Paul Martin).  It is well-managed, generating one of the best rates of return.  Canadians should be able to build on this expertise – all at no cost to the government.  It would also provide some much needed competition for private pension plans.

This good, practical Liberal idea has earned the support of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and even the Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.  It’s time has come!

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