Thursday, November 18, 2010

A National Debate?

The beginning of the first sentence of this Globe and Mail article left me flummoxed, "In the midst of a national debate on pension reform..." What? When did this debate begin? Who's having it? Whose idea was it to have this "national debate?" Why wasn't I informed? I read every damned newspaper there is!

 So I did what you're supposed to do with the new media, I googled it and while not a whole heck of a lot came up what I found sifting through the numerous pages was useful. Turns out that while there is not exactly a public debate taking place, the provinces have been busy trying to find consensus and reform the CPP -- which may or may not be what that mysterious first sentence was all about. Interestingly in October a new research paper was presented by expert Jonathan Kesselman, which compared the pension reform proposals on the table, and came to the conclusion that a bigger CPP, with a mandatory increase in premiums as well as benefits, was considered to be the best choice. And this is the direction that both federal and provincial governments are moving in.

There was more on the google pages but it pre-dates the above resolution of this "debate." An economist, Norma Kozhaya of the Montreal Economic Institute, who in 2007 said that we should raise the retitrement age in Canada from 65 to 67 in the next 12 years but there wasn't much more other than a few caveats about Canadians living longer and having to increase the CPP premiums or else! There was a story in the Digital Journal about the Canadian pension system coming in at fifth place in the second Melbourne Mercer Global Pension Index, produced by Mercer for the Australian Centre for Financial Studies, which is not too shabby.

 But there have also been some interesting discussions about the subject taking place, including one with a reminder that says,
If you haven't noticed the start of the retirement debate, perhaps you've been too busy working. Get used to it.
So now that this debate is raging all over the world, and even though Canada seems to have already settled on a solution, there are those who want that debate to re-start. Thankfully Finance Minister Jim Flaherty rejects the idea and is participating in the saner approach by working with the provinces to increase benefits through “modest” increases to Canada Pension Plan contributions. How long this holds is anyone's guess but you can expect the usual assortment of right leaning think-tanks to come out and endorse the idea of having this debate with the media acting as their enablers.

There is a case to be made for those who can and want to work beyond 65, but a mandatory raising of the retirement age unfairly targets the poor and those who work in manual labour -- which is probably the whole point. Not enough people eating cat food to keep them feeling good about themselves. So when you read how we need to have this debate immediately, don't believe it.

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