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Proposed CPP Expansion To Be Put Under The Microscope

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OTTAWA — The federal government's bid to expand the Canada Pension Plan is being put under the microscope, including an examination of the impact it could have on sluggish economic numbers — or so the opposition hopes.

The Commons finance committee is scheduled to hold an emergency meeting Friday to talk about the tentative agreement the federal and provincial governments struck three months ago on changes to the CPP.

It remains unclear whether the committee will hear from any witnesses; it will be up to the Liberal majority to decide whether to even go ahead with hearings, much less call witnesses.

A spokeswoman for Finance Minister Bill Morneau said the minister's office will follow the committee's deliberations closely. Annie Donolo said the minister's is trying to arrange a time to meet with the committee as soon as the House returns from its summer break later this month.

bill morneau
Finance Minister Bill Morneau appears at Commons committee for pre-budget consultations on Parliament Hill on Feb. 23, 2016. (Photo: Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

The Tories aren't willing to wait that long to make the case to Canadians that the changes will hurt businesses and slow wage increases.

The changes finance ministers agreed to in principle would increase the benefits Canadians receive in retirement, increase how much income is eligible for CPP coverage, and also increase how much employees and employers pay in premiums to cover the changes.

Conservative finance critic Lisa Raitt said small businesses have told her they might delay investments in their companies or freeze wages to pay for the bump in premiums, which would have a negative effect on the government's goal of creating jobs and economic growth.

"It just seems to be a very convoluted way to try and spur on the economy."

"You're going to be diverting investment money out of where it could go and putting it back into payroll taxes," she said.

"It just seems to be a very convoluted way to try and spur on the economy."

Quebec, which has its own provincial plan, has said it isn't interested in signing on to the agreement. British Columbia is withholding its signature until the end of ongoing public consultations about the proposal — a signature that could make or break the deal.

No changes to the Canada Pension Plan can take place without the agreement of seven out of 10 provinces representing two-thirds of the country's population. Without B.C. and Quebec agreeing to the changes, the deal would fall apart.

What's the rush?

As it stands, the process remains on track for the federal Liberals to table legislation this fall to usher in the changes, said Finance spokesman Paul Duchesne.

The Conservatives have raised concerns about the deal for months, questioning the government's rush to sign the pact and calling for consultations like those in B.C. They've suggested most Canadians don't know what the deal means for them.

A new Ipsos poll conducted for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, which has lobbied against increasing CPP premiums, found that one-quarter of 2,003 respondents knew it would take 40 years before the full increase in benefits is available, and more than one-quarter of current retirees believed, wrongly, that they will see more on their CPP payments because of the tentative deal.

The polling industry's professional body, the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, says online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population.

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