BC VIEWS: The state rescues your retirement (with VIDEO)

Liberals' expansion of Canada Pension Plan is modest, but it comes at a price and discourages individual responsibility

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne campaigns with soon-to-be federal finance minister Bill Morneau in Toronto last fall.

The Justin Trudeau government has declared a pension crisis, and is imposing its solution.

After the Ontario government threatened to press ahead with its own Quebec-style provincial pension plan, the Ottawa head office of the Liberal Party stepped in. Finance Minister Bill Morneau called a meeting of provincial ministers in June, and they lined up to support his intention to expand the Canada Pension Plan starting in 2019.

Perhaps still haunted by the leap to the harmonized sales tax, B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong broke from the herd ever so slightly, declaring a consultation period first. Premier Christy Clark hinted that this was a formality, since she is focused on cordial relations with Ottawa. B.C.’s rubber stamp could come any day.

Morneau’s CPP expansion plan sounds quite modest. Employer and employee payroll contributions are to go up from the current 4.95 per cent of earnings to 5.95 per cent by 2023. For each employee earning $54,900, the employer contribution goes up $7 to $8 per month in each of the first five years of the phase-in.

The goal is that by 2025, CPP will cover a third of earnings rather than a quarter as it does today.

Morneau is concerned about the decline in private pension plans, and sees it as the state’s job to step in. The days of bond investments earning seven per cent interest are gone, and even public sector employers are starting to look at defined-contribution pension plans where the payout depends on investment returns.

(See the horrified response of the post office union to the idea that a guaranteed pension isn’t their God-given right.)

For private sector employees, defined-benefit pensions are mostly a distant memory, if they have an employer pension at all. Many join self-employed people who are expected to manage their own RRSPs and tax-free savings accounts, which were curtailed by the incoming Trudeau government.

The Liberal philosophy is to discourage individual responsibility and increase state control.

De Jong gave an upbeat assessment of B.C.’s public sector pensions in his recent report on the public accounts. Unlike basket-case provinces such as Quebec (50 per cent unfunded liability) and Alberta (76 per cent unfunded), B.C. is 97 per cent funded.

The B.C. teachers’ pension plan has an unfunded liability of $244 million, which is projected to be covered by 2019 through increased employee and employer contributions. Of course the employers are school districts, funded by taxpayers. B.C.’s municipal pension plan also has an unfunded liability.

So if you are a self-employed person trying to sock away retirement funds on your own, you can be comforted by the fact that you’ll be chipping in a bit extra for teachers and municipal employees to maintain their guaranteed pensions.

And if you’re a small business owner, you’re looking at an extra $40 a month for each employee for CPP. According to a survey released last week by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, some employers will have to forgo other benefits. Some expect to freeze or even cut wages. Some expect layoffs.

The CFIB survey found low public awareness of all of this. Polling company Ipsos found almost 40 per cent of Canadians think the government pays for part of CPP. More than 70 per cent are unaware that current retirees get nothing from the CPP expansion.

The Fraser Institute ran the numbers on CPP deductions compared to Morneau’s middle class tax cut. When the CPP expansion is done, that $54,900-a-year employee will see a net decrease of $374 in take-home pay.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

Just Posted

Construction of LNG Canada plant still on hold

Construction will only begin following a positive final investment decision

VIDEO: Watch ex-Kitimat video director Stephano Barberis’ new reel, featuring his own new music

Breathe of My Leaves music project debuts ‘Chimera’ album of electronic sounds

Sulphur dioxide pollution over Kitimat could be eliminated after 2024

New process will eliminate SO2 as a byproduct

Kitimat, Terrace home sales up from 2017

Optimism surrounding a potentially positive LNG decision one of the factors

B.C. Green Party pushes for wild salmon commissioner

The role would serve as a unifying force in the provincial government

VIDEO: After the floods, comes the cleanup as Grand Forks rebuilds

Business owners in downtown wonder how long it will take for things to go back to normal

UPDATE: Woman dies in ocean accident near Tofino hours before daughter’s wedding

“We are so thankful to everyone who helped our mom.”

Olympian sues USA Swimming, saying it failed to protect her

Ariana Kukors Smith alleges her former coach Sean Hutchison began grooming her for sexual abuse at the age of 13

Defence minister thanks troops for B.C. flood relief work

Harjit Sajjan says not only was military response quick, support from locals has been ‘tremendous’

Couple survives being buried in mudslide on B.C. highway

The couple, from Saskatchewan, were en route to Nelson when a tree fell in their path

‘So grateful:’ Injured Bronco hockey player glad he’s alive, works on recovery

Ryan Straschnitzki was badly hurt in the accident: a spinal injury, broken ribs, a broken collar bone, and punctured lung

PHOTOS: Floodwaters rise and fall in Grand Forks

The flood-ravaged Kootenay-Boundary region begins to heal

Martin Mars waterbombers’ firefighting days are done

Wayne Coulson said his company still hopes to find a new home for the vintage aircraft

NHL playoffs weekly roundup

Vegas Golden Knights have done the impossible and have a chance at hoisting the Stanley Cup

Most Read