BC VIEWS: The state rescues your retirement (with VIDEO)

Liberals' expansion of Canada Pension Plan is modest, but it comes at a price and discourages individual responsibility

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne campaigns with soon-to-be federal finance minister Bill Morneau in Toronto last fall.

The Justin Trudeau government has declared a pension crisis, and is imposing its solution.

After the Ontario government threatened to press ahead with its own Quebec-style provincial pension plan, the Ottawa head office of the Liberal Party stepped in. Finance Minister Bill Morneau called a meeting of provincial ministers in June, and they lined up to support his intention to expand the Canada Pension Plan starting in 2019.

Perhaps still haunted by the leap to the harmonized sales tax, B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong broke from the herd ever so slightly, declaring a consultation period first. Premier Christy Clark hinted that this was a formality, since she is focused on cordial relations with Ottawa. B.C.’s rubber stamp could come any day.

Morneau’s CPP expansion plan sounds quite modest. Employer and employee payroll contributions are to go up from the current 4.95 per cent of earnings to 5.95 per cent by 2023. For each employee earning $54,900, the employer contribution goes up $7 to $8 per month in each of the first five years of the phase-in.

The goal is that by 2025, CPP will cover a third of earnings rather than a quarter as it does today.

Morneau is concerned about the decline in private pension plans, and sees it as the state’s job to step in. The days of bond investments earning seven per cent interest are gone, and even public sector employers are starting to look at defined-contribution pension plans where the payout depends on investment returns.

(See the horrified response of the post office union to the idea that a guaranteed pension isn’t their God-given right.)

For private sector employees, defined-benefit pensions are mostly a distant memory, if they have an employer pension at all. Many join self-employed people who are expected to manage their own RRSPs and tax-free savings accounts, which were curtailed by the incoming Trudeau government.

The Liberal philosophy is to discourage individual responsibility and increase state control.

De Jong gave an upbeat assessment of B.C.’s public sector pensions in his recent report on the public accounts. Unlike basket-case provinces such as Quebec (50 per cent unfunded liability) and Alberta (76 per cent unfunded), B.C. is 97 per cent funded.

The B.C. teachers’ pension plan has an unfunded liability of $244 million, which is projected to be covered by 2019 through increased employee and employer contributions. Of course the employers are school districts, funded by taxpayers. B.C.’s municipal pension plan also has an unfunded liability.

So if you are a self-employed person trying to sock away retirement funds on your own, you can be comforted by the fact that you’ll be chipping in a bit extra for teachers and municipal employees to maintain their guaranteed pensions.

And if you’re a small business owner, you’re looking at an extra $40 a month for each employee for CPP. According to a survey released last week by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, some employers will have to forgo other benefits. Some expect to freeze or even cut wages. Some expect layoffs.

The CFIB survey found low public awareness of all of this. Polling company Ipsos found almost 40 per cent of Canadians think the government pays for part of CPP. More than 70 per cent are unaware that current retirees get nothing from the CPP expansion.

The Fraser Institute ran the numbers on CPP deductions compared to Morneau’s middle class tax cut. When the CPP expansion is done, that $54,900-a-year employee will see a net decrease of $374 in take-home pay.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

Just Posted

Province announces $100-million grant funding for Northwest communities

The Northern Capital and Planning Grant will go to four regional districts and 22 municipalities

All Native Basketball Tournament Day 5: Recap

Highlights and results from day 5 at the All Native Tournament

All Native Basketball Tournament Day 6: Preview

Look ahead to all the action scheduled for Feb. 16 at the All Native Tournament

All Native Basketball Tournament Day 4: Recap

Results and highlights from day 4 at the 2019 All Native Basketball Tournament

All Native Basketball Tournament Day 3: Recap

Highlights from around Day 3 of the tournament

B.C. students win Great Waters Challenge video contest

Video, mural and song about saving the salmon claims the top prize

B.C. athlete takes home gold in freestyle aerials at Canada Games

Brayden Kuroda won the event with a combined score of 121.65.

Cabinet likely to extend deadline to reconsider Trans Mountain pipeline

New round of consultations with Indigenous communities is coming

B.C. government provides $75,000 towards salmon study

Study looks at abundance and health of Pacific salmon in Gulf of Alaska

Murdered and missing honoured at Stolen Sisters Memorial March in B.C.

‘We come together to make change within the systems in our society’

UBC researchers develop inexpensive tool to test drinking water

The tricoder can test for biological contamination in real-time

Disgraced ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner released from prison

He was convicted of having illicit online contact with a 15-year-old North Carolina girl in 2017

B.C. communities push back against climate change damages campaign

Activists copying California case that was tossed out of court

Most Read