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

More B.C. ambulance service needed in the North: Hospital chief of staff

Fort St. James physicians talk about the need for easier access to healthcare

Broken axle caused New Hazelton train derailment: TSB

It could happen again without a different way to inspect trains

Cullen remains uncertain about political future

Says he’ll make decision in early March

Terrace resident’s bill banning single-use plastics introduced in Ottawa

MP Nathan Cullen’s presented Ben Korving’s private member’s bill Wednesday

B.C. BUDGET: Surplus $374 million after bailouts of BC Hydro, ICBC

Growth projected stronger in 2020, Finance Minister Carole James says

Indigenous leaders, politicians say Trans Mountain report flawed

The National Energy Board has endorsed an expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline a second time

Have you heard the legend of Shuswaggi, the Shuswap Lake monster?

Witness accounts as old as 1904, and as recent as 2018, place a creature in the lake’s depths

UPDATE: B.C. ticket holder winner of $25.9-million Lotto Max jackpot

Next draw set for Mar. 1 with an estimated jackpot of $10 million

B.C.-based ‘Team Tardi’ brings home gold in junior curling worlds

In a 9-4 victory over Switzerland, a Langley-based curling team earned its 2nd straight world title

People gather for funeral of seven children killed in fast-moving Halifax fire

Traditional portion of the service will be followed by words from community members

B.C. weavers to help Alaska Native project honouring survivors of violence

Dozens of Chilkat and Ravenstail weavers from all over North America will be weaving 5-inch-by-5-inch squares

B.C. skip Sarah Wark and team eliminated at Scotties Tournament of Hearts

Nontheless pretty impressive stuff from the 24th-ranked team in the country

Pope’s sex abuse prevention summit explained

It’s A high-stakes meeting designed to impress on Catholic bishops the global problem

Girl heard saying ‘Help my Dad’ in suspicious radio message on Vancouver Island

Police asking for help following mysterious signals from somewhere between Comox and Sayward

Most Read