VANCOUVER – The leaders of Canada's provincial and territorial Federations of Labour today called on the premiers to use their annual meeting, currently underway in Vancouver, as a platform to protest Prime Minister Stephen Harper's "shocking abandonment of the kind of real pension reform that Canadians want and desperately need."
The Federation of Labour presidents, who collectively represent more than three million unionized Canadians, are meeting this week down the street from the hotel where the premiers are holding their annual meeting.
The union leaders were reacting to news that Prime Minister Harper's point man on the pension file, Minister of State for Finance Ted Menzies, has formally announced that the idea of expanding the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) as a solution to the country's looming crisis in retirement income is off the table.
"Last year at this time, eight of ten provincial governments, representing about three-quarters of the Canadian population, had come to an agreement that the most logical and cost-effective way to help Canadians save for their retirement was to expand CPP," said Jim Sinclair, president of the B.C. Federation of Labour, who is hosting the meeting of his counterparts from across the country.
"Now Prime Minister Harper is using his new-found majority to squash long overdue and much-needed changes that are supported by the provinces and a clear majority of Canadians. To make matters worse, he's offering an alternative – his so-called pooled-pension program – that will do nothing but funnel money into the pockets of big banks and investment companies. It's a shocking betrayal of hard-working Canadians. It's a slap on the face of all the premiers. And it's something that the premiers who support CPP expansion should not stand for."
Sinclair and the other Federation presidents argue that CPP expansion is far superior to Harper's Pooled Retirement Pension Plan (PRPP) because the CPP has far lower management costs, because the CPP provides a guaranteed benefit for retirees, and because employee contributions would be matched by employers.
"The PRPP is nothing more than a glorified RRSP and another vehicle that the banks can use to siphon huge fees from the retirement nest eggs of individual Canadians," says Alberta Federation of Labour president, Gil McGowan. "Every expert who has looked at this issue agrees that expansion of CPP is the best way to help Canadians save for their own retirements. It's clear the Prime Minister has allowed the narrow interests of the financial services industry to trump the broader interests of the Canadian public. He has also broken a promise he made to the premiers and Canadians in December when he said that plans for the PRPP and CPP expansion would both remain on the table for development. It's a betrayal, and the premiers shouldn't stand for it."
The Federation of Labour presidents will be attending a reception with the Premiers tonight. At that reception, they will ask the Premiers to include a response to the Harper government's announcement on CPP expansion as part of their joint communiqué tomorrow.
MEDIA CONTACT: Gil McGowan, AFL president, 780-218-9888