THE BLOG

Canadians Won't Be Fooled by Conservatives' Bogus CPP Plan

06/04/2015 08:03 EDT | Updated 06/04/2016 05:59 EDT
CP

Federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver continues to stretch the bounds of credibility by suggesting his Conservative government might expand the Canada Pension Plan (CPP).

Given its record for cynical politics, it is quite a feat for this government to plumb new depths with such a brazen pre-election ploy.

Indeed, the Conservatives themselves provide all the evidence needed to expose the deceit of the finance minister's proposal.

Time and again, through its words and actions, this government has been unequivocal in opposing a true expansion of the CPP.

The Conservatives have discounted evidence of pension experts showing CPP expansion would be an efficient and effective approach to enhance retirement security for Canadians.

They've turned a blind eye to the fact that the overwhelming majority of Canadians favour an expanded CPP.

The Conservatives have steadfastly rejected CPP expansion at multiple first ministers meetings over the last several years, despite widespread support among provinces.

In 2013 the Conservatives voted against a motion by the New Democratic Party to expand the CPP.

The Conservatives could have taken real action of their own to improve the CPP in any of the budgets they passed over the last nine years. But each time they deliberately opted not to do so. They didn't even mention pensions in the 2015 budget they tabled only six weeks ago.

Perhaps most incredible is the fact the Conservatives themselves have repeatedly and emphatically agreed with expert opinion that the type of scheme now being floated by Minister Oliver is a bad, simply unworkable idea.

Having rejected a legitimate CPP expansion for all Canadians, the finance minister says he will consult with experts on the merits of a system in which individual workers could voluntarily pay higher CPP premiums in order to increase their pensions at retirement.

However, this very proposal has already been examined by experts hired by the Conservative government. And after two years of study, the Conservatives flatly rejected the proposal.

Then-Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said in 2010 that adding a new system of voluntary, individual CPP contributions was soundly rejected "because it would not work and because the CPP would be unable to administer it."

Ted Menzies, then the Conservative minister responsible for the pension file, said consultation and study produced the "unanimous" conclusion that a voluntary CPP system "was not a good idea."

"The consensus of governments and public-interest groups from across the political spectrum has been that this would be costly, ineffective and, ultimately, a misguided solution," Menzies said.

The problem now for the Conservatives is that an election is looming and many voters are growing increasingly concerned about their retirement security.

The Conservatives are confronted by the reality that the overwhelming majority of Canadians - a staggering 88 per cent according to nationwide poll in April - supports expanding the CPP.

More and more voters are realizing this government has spent nearly a decade blocking improvements to the most effective, efficient and reliable pension fund in Canadian history.

Canadians recognize the Conservatives have implemented legislation and policies -- such as their voluntary Pooled Registered Pension Plan scheme -- that disproportionately favour the wealthy and enrich the government's corporate allies such as the private financial sector.

With the election of a New Democratic government in Alberta, provincial support for CPP expansion also is likely to grow.

But federal Conservatives remain ideologically and adamantly opposed to improving universal social programs, even ones as successful as the CPP. With an election approaching, what to do?

The Conservative plan is to buy time and sow confusion by resurrecting a bogus proposal that has been widely discredited, including by the Conservatives themselves.

It is a transparent and remarkably feeble strategy to distract Canadians who are worried about their retirement security and who deserve a legitimate expansion of the CPP.

Canadians who want real change won't be fooled.

Ken Neumann

National Director

United Steelworkers

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