CALGARY -- Is the Alberta government stepping back from earlier promises to lead a nationwide fight to improve Canada's system for providing retirement income for seniors?
Based on remarks made this morning by Ted Morton, Alberta's new finance minister, that seems to be what's happening.
"Pension reform has risen to the top of the political agenda across the country," says Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan. "And the Alberta government can take a lot of credit for putting it there. But, based on the minister's comments this morning, it looks like the Stelmach government's commitment to push for meaningful changes is starting to evaporate."
In his opening remarks to the National Retirement Income Summit, being hosted today by the University of Calgary's School of Public Policy, Morton downplayed the seriousness of concerns being raised about the inadequacy of retirement savings and retirement income for millions of Canadians.
Among other things, Morton said that if seniors find themselves without adequate retirement income, they should simply continue working or consider selling off or re-mortgaging major assets like their homes.
Morton also said the Alberta government would not support an expansion of the Canada Pension Plan(CPP) - a reform that is supported by numerous seniors groups and labour groups and which is being given serious consideration by several provinces.
"The previous finance minister said that all options were on the table, but clearly that's no longer the case," said McGowan, who is also attending the summit in Calgary. "That's more than a little disappointing, especially considering the fact that an on-line public consultation process aimed at getting the views of ordinary Albertans doesn't wrap up until the end of the week."
McGowan says he was particularly disappointed in the Minister's suggestion that the private investment industry should be given another ten years to find ways to help Albertans save more appropriately for retirement.
"The investment industry has already had 30 years to prove that they have the solutions Canadians need - and they've failed miserably," said McGowan. "High fees, risky products, questionable advice, and grossly inadequate savings - that's what an over-reliance on private RRSPs has brought us. The minister needs to take his ideological blinkers off and become a little more open-minded about low-cost public solutions like expanding the CPP."
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Gil McGowan, President, AFL @ 780-483-3021 or 780-218-9888 (cell)