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The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada > News & Events > Communications Magazine > Vol. 36, No. 3, Summer 2010 > After Crowbush: Getting Ready for the Government’s Next Move
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After Crowbush: Getting Ready for the Government’s Next Move

“We’ve been clear. We’re not reducing existing pension benefits” - Stockwell Day, quoted in the March 22, 2010 Globe and Mail

On June 13-14, 2010, Canada’s Finance Ministers met in Charlottetown (at the Crowbush resort) to discuss the results of the public consultation process on retirement security launched by the federal government earlier this year (see the Spring issue of Communications Magazine for more details about these consultations).

PIPSC and other labour groups “welcomed” federal Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty at the Charlottetown airport (see the PIPSC website for CBC News coverage of the event – English only).

After two days of discussions with his provincial and territorial counterparts, Minister Flaherty announced “modest” increases to Canada Pension Plan (CPP) contributions, to be phased in over a period still to be determined. He also committed to measures aimed at enhancing financial literacy amongst Canadians and legislative changes to promote pension plans in the private sector and amongst the self-employed.

Pension Meeting

Public Service Alliance (PSAC) representatives met with Institute representatives in July to pursue discussions on a common strategy to deal with the pension issue and the Disability Management Initiative. Seated from left to right: Institute Vice-President Shannon Bittman, Institute Pension Advisor John Staric and PSAC representatives Pierre Marinier, James Infantino, Brenda Goodman and Jeff Bennie.

While these measures are a step in the right direction, they fall far short of the recommendations put forward by PIPSC and other public sector bargaining agents aimed at providing all Canadians with an adequate level of retirement income. The longer the government waits to take any meaningful action the more expensive the solution becomes.

There has been much rhetoric in the media that the Canada Pension Plan does not achieve good investment returns, and that individuals could realize substantially higher pension income by investing the equivalent CPP dollars in a self-directed RRSP. Contrary to these reports, a recent Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) study shows that the Canada Pension Plan has performed very well over the past few years of global economic uncertainty, compared to the vast majority of other national pension portfolios. This clearly invalidates the arguments used by right-of-centre commentators regarding the Plan’s solvency and viability, arguments clearly based on ideology rather than on a careful study of the facts. Furthermore, study after study has indicated that Canadians left to their own devices do not save enough to retire with dignity. As such, an enhanced CPP pension provides all Canadians with a higher guaranteed minimum income at retirement, as does our defined benefit plan.

The Institute continues to work with bargaining agents who share a common stand on the pensions issue. As everyone is aware, this strategy bore fruit in the days leading up to the 2010 federal Budget when Canada’s unions sent a strong message to the government not to touch public service pensions.

PIPSC is also making sure that its members have the knowledge they need to fully understand their rights and to make informed decisions when it comes to their retirement. The pensions website (accessible from the PIPSC home page) is updated regularly and Lunch and Learn sessions are available across the country. Talk to your steward or Regional Director for more details about upcoming Lunch and Learn events in your area.

Finally, stay tuned for more news as PIPSC and other unions prepare to defend your pension against yet another potential round of attacks when Parliament reconvenes in September, and in the run-up to the government’s next Budget.