POLITICS

Tories' CPP Expansion Proposal Is 'Utter Nonsense,' Liberal MP Says

05/28/2015 02:14 EDT | Updated 05/28/2015 07:59 EDT

The Tory government’s sudden support for voluntary increases to Canada Pension Plan contributions is “utter nonsense,” according to a Liberal MP.

“He supports it one day and attacks it the next,” John McCallum told reporters on Thursday about the prime minister's “flip-flop” on the issue.

“He’s not serious at all in terms of expanding the plan.”

The Markham-Unionville MP also targeted Employment Minister Pierre Poilievre's criticism of the Liberals' support for a mandatory CPP expansion — one similar to what Ontario is proposing.

It “would kill jobs and send shockwaves throughout our economy,” Poilievre said.

“Prime Minister Stephen Harper has a low-tax plan for retirement savings, through the tax-free savings accounts, registered disability savings plans and now a voluntary option for the Canadian Pension Plan.”

McCallum, however, rejected Poilievre's point, suggesting it’s rich for the Conservatives to jump to conclusions about a plan that is not yet concrete.

“Nobody can know at this point what it will be,” he said.

He added the prime minister’s personal history is indicative the government is “not serious” about expanding CPP contributions.

He pointed to Harper’s infamous “firewall letter” published in the National Post in 2001. Harper, then the leader of the National Citizen’s Coalition, urged then-Alberta Premier Ralph Klein to withdraw from the Canada Pension Plan and create a provincial program.

“There is no reason to have Ottawa collect our revenue,” read the letter. Quebec was singled out as a model of how a provincially-run plan would work.

“Any incremental cost of collecting our own personal income tax would be far outweighed by the policy flexibility that Alberta would gain, as Quebec’s experience has shown.”

In question period, Poilievre repeated a line he told reporters earlier in the day about a so-called “Trudeau tax.”

“That means a $1,000 tax increase for a worker earning only $60,000 a year,” he said. Conservative MP Mark Adler later asked a question to his own party about how they would help middle-class families, offering Poilievre another opportunity to reiterate the same line.

For nearly 10 years, the federal Conservatives have stood firmly against expansion of the plan. The federal Liberals campaigned on both mandatory and voluntary increases back in 2011.

On Tuesday, Finance Minister Joe Oliver announced the government’s intention to look into a “voluntary option” for Canadians to increase their contributions.

But the news didn’t impress Thomas Mulcair. The NDP leader called the Conservatives’ change of heart a “last-minute conversion” to pick up party support.

With files from The Canadian Press

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