Kananaskis - Alberta Federation of Labour Gil McGowan says the federal-provincial finance ministers' decision to put CPP expansion on ice misses an historic opportunity for retirement security for millions of working Canadians.
"Reform delayed is likely to be reform denied," says McGowan.
"It is clear what happened here: the federal government, along with a tiny minority of provinces, bowed to the pressure exerted by the financial services industry and succeeded in delaying improvements to the CPP," says McGowan. "Alberta Finance Minister Ted Morton has called this a good weekend for Alberta. I would say it's more appropriate to call it a great weekend for Canada's big banks," says McGowan.
Speaking from Kananaskis, McGowan notes there was a strong consensus from at least 6 provinces to move ahead with expanding CPP.
"The good news is there remains a strong appetite - from coast to coast to coast - for pension reform, and most provinces are unequivocal in their support of improving CPP," says McGowan, crediting provinces like Ontario, Manitoba, and Nova Scotia for exercising leadership in keeping CPP improvements on the table.
"It is crucial that 'further study' doesn't turn into another convenient excuse to do nothing," adds McGowan.
"We have been down this road before. In 1979, Canadian finance ministers began a CPP expansion process. It was quickly scuttled by the financial sector, which exerted enormous pressure on Alberta and Ontario's Conservative governments of the day," says McGowan.
"1979 was a cautionary tale for how vested interests can easily deny millions of Canadians a secure future via the most stable, predictable, and secure vehicle we have - the CPP," says McGowan.
"Canadians need to keep up the pressure on their provincial and federal politicians to make sure history does not repeat itself," says McGowan.
The President of the AFL adds that the agreement to move forward on a so-called "Pooled Retirement Pension Plan" - administered by the big banks - is at best a half-measure.
"At worst, this private-sector retirement savings scheme is a distraction from real reform. The plan is nothing more than glorified RRSPs, which have failed the majority of Canadians for decades. It will not solve the real problem: adequate replacement of pre-retirement income, based on a low-cost, low-risk plan that benefits modest income earners," says McGowan.
The Alberta Federation of Labour and the Canadian Labour Congress have an ongoing campaign for improvements to the CPP, with a modest increase to premiums and a doubling of CPP benefits over time. More details are at www.realpensionreform.org
Gil McGowan, President, Alberta Federation of Labour @ cell 780-218-9888 or office 780-483-3021