Need for a rock-solid pension plan only growing

One of the things I heard a great deal during the Canada Post lockout was that most people would love to have the kind of pension that postal workers have.   I cannot argue with that.  I often hear from people struggling to get by on inadequate pensions and statisticians tell us this phenomenon is only increasing, which is bad news for Canada.

Pensions were a centerpiece of the New Democrat platform in the past election for this very reason.  Having seen the devastation that can occur when a company like Nortel collapses only solidifies the belief that Canada would be better served by a public pension scheme that is more foolproof than private ones have shown themselves to be.  The Conservatives disagree.

While they seem to recognize the problem, they cannot separate themselves from their belief in market solutions to see that there are better options for Canadians.  What the government has proposed is little more than a publicly sanctioned gamble that amounts to defined contribution pensions at a public level – for Canadians who care to contribute. 

What they are ignoring is that there are 11 million Canadians who do not have workplace pensions.  These people need to be protected by a truly secure plan and many will require more than government encouragement to contribute.    The obvious solution to this is to beef up the Canada Pension Plan.  It is the one pension that any working Canadian is already contributing to.  It can be improved with the least amount of difficulty and there are 11 million reasons to make these improvements immediately.

The alternative approach that the government prefers amounts to wishful thinking.   While there will be some individuals who will be able to put aside money for a privately invested, public pension like the Conservatives are proposing, it likely won’t attract a critical mass of the working Canadians who are not covered by additional pension plans.   Again, the fact that the CPP is the only plan that all working Canadians invest in clarifies the question further.

While this idea will require incremental increases in the deductions for CPP, it is the only way of ensuring the most Canadians possible will be prepared for retirement and will not become dependent on social assistance.  Either way working people will pay the freight, but under the New Democrat plan it will be done up front as a form of insurance.  It is a plan that goes beyond the short timelines favoured by most government initiatives and represents the kind of long-term thinking we would be well-served in pursuing.

It is possible to reverse the trend of downloading responsibilities to other levels of government that has resulted in provincial and municipal budgets being stretched thinner and thinner.  In contrast to the Conservative plan which only supplies the banks with more tax-payer money to play with – the New Democrat proposal goes about preparing Canada for the future in a realistic way.  

Our government needs to focus a little more on the needs of our citizens in balance with those of the ‘economy’ which they trumpet so often.  There is no way that a population struggling to get by in retirement will be good for any economy.