Expansion of the Canada Pension Plan is the most efficient and effective way to ensure the financial security of Albertans in their old ageRead more
Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) ads say Redford has an opportunity to make positive history – or to go down in the books as the Premier who ignored Canada’s retirement income crisis
Edmonton – The Redford government has an historic opportunity to be part of the solution or part of the problem when it comes to dealing with Canada’s looming crisis of inadequate retirement income for seniors.
As finance ministers from across the country gather this weekend to discuss the crucial issue of reform to the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), the provinces largest workers’ advocacy group, the Alberta Federation of Labour has placed ads in Alberta’s four largest daily newspapers urging Premier Redford to do the right thing and drop her opposition to CPP expansion.
“All the experts and eight out of ten provinces agree. Millions of middle-income Canadians who don’t have workplace pensions are facing the prospect of poverty or significantly reduced standards of living after they retire if something isn’t done,” AFL president Gil McGowan said. “Right here in Alberta, Canada’s wealthiest province, only one in three people will be able to retire with a measure of security. This is a crisis and an expanded CPP is clearly a big part of the solution.”
The ads remind Albertans that before she became Premier, Redford told labour and seniors’ advocates that she supported an expanded CPP. Since being chosen as Premier, she has bowed to pressure from business and banking lobby groups who oppose CPP reform for reasons related to ideology and self interest.
McGowan says Redford is actually making the crisis worse by attacking the pensions of the minority of Albertans who have them.
“Instead of pulling up those who don’t have retirement security by supporting and expanded CPP, she’s dragging down those who have some security by attacking pensions for public sector workers,” McGowan said. “But it doesn’t have to be this way. This weekend, the Alberta government has an opportunity to do the right thing. If Premier Redford joins the majority of provinces who support CPP expansion, future generations of seniors, both here in Alberta and across the country, will thank her.”
Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.289.6528 (cell)
or via e-mail [email protected]
Redford is wrong when she says “Albertans feel comfortable with where they are” on pensions and retirement security
Polling shows Albertans are just as worried about retirement security as other Canadians and would overwhelming support expansion of CPP
Edmonton – Premier Alison Redford is out of step with the retirement needs of the citizens in her own province, says the president of Alberta’s largest worker organization.
On Friday, the premier told reporters that “Albertans feel comfortable with where they are” on pensions and retirement income. Her comments are contradicted by polling conducted by the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) and the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC).
Redford made her comments in response to suggestions from Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne that the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) should be expanded to address a looming crisis in retirement income.
“The last time the issue of CPP expansion was on the national agenda, we conducted a province-wide poll that paints a very different picture than the one Premier Redford attempted to paint this weekend,” Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. “The poll was conducted in late 2010 and it showed that many Albertans are worried about their own preparedness for retirement. It also shows that Albertans support the concept of CPP expansion in the same overwhelming numbers as Canadians in other parts of the country.”
High levels of support among Albertans for CPP expansion are not surprising given the fact that Alberta has the lowest percentage (30 per cent) of workers covered by workplace pensions in the country. At the same time, only about 38 per cent of Albertans contribute to RRSPs, and the median contribution is only $3,200 per year.
“A clear majority of working Albertans are facing the prospect of hard times when they retire, if they can retire at all,” McGowan said. “That’s why I was so shocked when Premier Redford was so quick to dismiss Premier Wynne’s proposals last week. When will the Alberta government get out of the way and stop obstructing a pension solution that is supported by every other province and the majority of its own citizens?”
The poll that McGowan referred to was commissioned by the AFL and the CLC. It was conducted in October 2010. Here are a few of the poll’s findings:
- 59.9 per cent of Albertans said they felt insecure about their retirement
- 75.9 per cent of Albertans felt that the CPP’s maximum annual payout of about $11,000 was too low
- 63.5 per cent of Albertans support the concept of expanding CPP
- 71.2 per cent of Albertans said the Alberta government should get out of the way and allow changes to CPP
McGowan says he was also surprised by Redford’s comments because they contradicted statements she made in 2010.
“Back in late 2010, as part of our campaign to support CPP expansion, a group of about 60 of our members and activists met face-to-face with MLAs at the Alberta Legislature,” McGowan recalls.
“One of the MLAs who met with us was Alison Redford, who at the time was Minister of Justice. I remember it clearly because she was the highest-ranking member of the government caucus who agreed to meet with us. At that time, she told our members who visited her office that she knew Albertans were worried about having enough money to retire. We were thrilled because we thought she got it. Now we’re left wondering why the Premier has changed her tune.”-30-
Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.289.6528 (cell) or via e-mail [email protected]
It has become clear that the federal government, supported by a number of employer organizations, has a plan for transforming Canada's labour market in ways that will profoundly hurt Canadians.
It's a four-prong strategy which includes the dramatic expansion of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), the erosion of Employment Insurance, raising the country's retirement age, as well as a systematic effort to undermine the ability of unions to stand up for the rights of working people and improve their standard of living.
Taken together, these policies will suppress the wages and incomes of Canadians, rather than address the real problems in Canada's job market.
As provincial and territorial federation of labour leaders, representing over three million workers from coast to coast to coast, we are calling on the premiers to stand with the workers of Canada against this cheap labour strategy.
Canada's premiers touched on some of these issues when they met in Halifax last week at the Council of the Federation. We think it is critical that the following issues be front and centre when they come together this fall to talk about the economy.
Foreign Workers: The TFWP is not immigration. It's exploitation. These workers, many of whom are desperately seeking a better life, are being used to create an underclass to drive down the wages and working conditions of Canadians. It's not fair or just to them, or to their Canadian co-workers. The recent decision by the Harper Conservatives to allow employers to pay temporary foreign workers 15 per cent less than their Canadian co-workers is a blatant example of their low-wage strategy.
With 1.3 million unemployed, and several hundred thousand more discouraged or underemployed Canadians, our focus should be on providing opportunities for Canada's unemployed and underemployed.
Employment Insurance: Instead of tackling unemployment in many regions of our country, the Harper plan has been to attack the unemployed. The Conservative government's changes to EI are clearly designed to force workers to take low-paying jobs or have their unemployment benefits cut off. This is not about helping the unemployed find jobs — rather, it is about serving them up to low-wage employers.
Old Age Security: Increasing the country's retirement age to 67 has nothing to do with the sustainability of our social programs or with retirement security. It is about forcing older workers who have struggled with low and medium wages throughout their working lives to work two more years. It is about expanding the pool of desperate workers who have no choice but to work for less.
Attacks on unions: Unions are one of the few mechanisms to protect the rights of working people and improve their standard of living. What unions achieve at the collective bargaining table lifts the floor and improves living standards for all workers. Unions also fight for and are instrumental in making gains for all society, like the establishment of medicare, health and safety laws, and fair minimum wages.
But the Harper government has a clear plan to attack unions. The government has undermined collective bargaining in the federal sector, and emboldened employers to drive down wages and attack pensions in the private sector. In addition, through legislation like Bill 377, the Harper Conservatives are attempting to rob unions of the ability to use their resources to defend their members and civil society.
So, what is the solution? Canadians need our country's premiers to denounce this low-wage agenda and stand up for what is in the best interest of working people.
When the premiers meet this fall to discuss the economy, we believe the labour market ought to be front and centre in that discussion. They must denounce the exploitive expansion of the TFWP. They must collectively demand that Ottawa invest more in training to bridge the skills gap, so that unemployed Canadians can fill available jobs.
Premiers should also call for improvements to Canada's EI program, as fewer than 40 per cent of unemployed Canadians are currently eligible for benefits. We need our premiers to challenge the notion that Canada must increase its retirement age to 67. What's really needed is pension reform that will allow all Canadians to retire in dignity, such as improving and enhancing CPP. And finally, the premiers should recognize and defend the important role unions play in our society and our economy.
The provinces have power. Our premiers understand that Canada is more than the sum of its parts.
Canadians need our premiers to push back. And when they do, Canadians, the vast majority of us, will be with them.
Halifax Chronical Herald, 2012 July 26
Submitted by the presidents of the provincial and territorial Federations of Labour: Rick Clarke, Nova Scotia; Lana Payne, Newfoundland and Labrador; Michel Boudreau, New Brunswick; Carl Pursey, Prince Edward Island; Sid Ryan, Ontario; Kevin Rebeck, Manitoba; Larry Hubich, Saskatchewan; Gil McGowan, Alberta; Jim Sinclair, British Columbia; MaryLou Cherwaty, Northern Territories.
CPP Reform Delayed likely to be CPP Reform Denied – McGowan: Decision to ice CPP expansion in favour of “further study” bodes ill for Canadians' retirement security
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
Harper/Flaherty Pension Scheme a Holiday Gift to the Banks; a Lump of Coal for Canadians:Taking CPP expansion off the table would be a betrayal of what Canadians need and want
Edmonton - Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has betrayed generations of Canadians by suggesting that expansion of the Canada Pension Plan should be taken off the table at the meeting of provincial finance ministers in Kananaskis next Monday, says Gil McGowan, President of the Alberta Federation of Labour.
This morning, Flaherty unveiled a supplementary, voluntary pension plan run by the big banks as an alternative to expanding the CPP, despite having taken the private sector option off the table just a few months ago.
"The federal government caved to ideological pressure from Alberta and the self-interest of the investment industry," says McGowan, who says the only ones who will benefit from Flaherty's plan are the banks, who will profit from the high fees charged by private sector plans, as opposed to the low management fees in the Canada Pension Plan.
"It is clear the investment industry had a hand in this decision. The Canadian Association of Bankers called the plan a 'wonderful holiday gift' within minutes of Flaherty's announcement. They had their press releases all queued up, and had clearly been consulted beforehand," continues McGowan.
McGowan says today's federal announcement betrays the 78 percent of Canadians who want CPP benefits increased, according to a recent Environics poll.
It is also unclear whether there is in fact a national consensus on the private sector option, as Flaherty claims. All provinces, except Alberta, support modest phased-in improvements to the CPP.
"I am calling on the finance ministers of all provinces to stand up for what their citizens need and want, which is better retirement security via improvements to the CPP," says McGowan. "On December 19th and 20th, the rest of Canada's finance ministers must keep CPP expansion on the table."
The voluntary plan cooked up by Ottawa, Alberta, and the Big Banks will not in any way address Canada's looming retirement crisis.
"This plan exposes Canadians to unnecessary risk, and employers can opt out. Let's face it - they will, and it's a fantasy to think otherwise.
"The private investment industry has had 40 years to prove to Canadians that their products can deliver adequate retirement income. They've failed, because they are more interested in high fees and their own profits than Canadians' ability to retire in dignity."
"The CPP is the most efficient way to ensure Canadians don't live in poverty in old age. If the country's finance ministers don't stand up to the Harper Conservatives, the Alberta ideologues, and the Big Banks today, we lose the opportunity to secure a dignified retirement for generations of Canadians to come," concludes McGowan.
Gil McGowan, President, Alberta Federation of Labour @ cell 780-218-9888 or office 780-483-3021
An open letter to Canada's finance ministers: “Ted Morton does not speak for Albertans on CPP expansion!” Alberta Federation of Labour President urges fellow Canadians to move forward...
Edmonton - Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan released an open letter to Canada's provincial and federal finance ministers today, urging them to move ahead with reform to the Canada Pension Plan despite continued opposition from Alberta Finance Minister Ted Morton.
"Alberta Finance Minister Ted Morton does not speak for Albertans on the issue of retirement security," says McGowan, President of the AFL, which represents 140,000 Alberta workers.
Federal and provincial finance ministers will meet on December 20th in Kananaskis, Alberta. In recent months, a rare consensus in favour of CPP expansion has emerged among the provinces and the federal government, with the exception of Alberta.
"The rest of the country needs to know that two-thirds of Albertans disagree with Ted Morton, along with experts across the political spectrum, and ordinary Albertans from all walks of life," continues McGowan, adding that it appears some members of Morton's own Conservative caucus also disagree with his position.
The open letter to Canada's finance ministers argues that a recent Environics poll found that 66-per-cent of Albertans support an increase in CPP benefits and only 19-per-cent are opposed. On November 26th, Edmonton City Council passed a unanimous motion in favour of expanding CPP. The same week, the Calgary Herald editorial board endorsed CPP expansion without reservations.
McGowan adds that none of Alberta Finance Minister Ted Morton's claims about the negative effects of CPP expansion are supported by evidence. Rather, Albertans need CPP reform more than other Canadians - Albertans have lower workplace pension coverage than other Canadians and are able to save no more than other Canadians in RRSPs.
"Finance Minister Ted Morton has only suggested one alternative to CPP expansion - a voluntary scheme managed by the big banks and insurance companies. Polls show Albertans don't support those ideas, either," says McGowan, indicating that private, voluntary pension schemes come with extremely high fees and much more risk than the CPP.
"We urge Canadian finance ministers to do the right thing - and expand the Canada Pension Plan - as a way to ensure retirement security for all of us," concludes McGowan.
Gil McGowan, President, Alberta Federation of Labour -cell 780-218-9888 or 780-483-3021 or [email protected]