Thursday, December 17, 2009

Canadian Finance Ministers Meeting in Whitehorse this week

The Canadian provincial and federal finance ministers are meeting this week in Whitehorse to discuss pension reform. This is a chance to influence them. Send emails to the addresses shown on the previous post with your comments and wishes to alter the Canadian Bankruptcy Act to provide pensioners some protection.

Canwest News ServiceDecember 17, 2009

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says he will consider "all options" for pension reform at meetings with his provincial and territorial counterparts this week in Whitehorse, although he cautioned it could take roughly a year before all sides agree on how to encourage Canadians to save more for retirement.

In an interview Wednesday, Flaherty said he wasn't ruling out any options when Canada's finance ministers meet today and Friday in the Yukon capital: from bulking up private pension plans to better educating Canadians about saving for retirement to expanding the scope of the Canada Pension Plan through some kind of supplementary plan.

"We have to look at all options. I wouldn't rule out anything," the finance minister said. "But we have to, as I say, make sure we deal with this deliberately, carefully, with expert advice, including advice from the private sector."

Flaherty said it could be "another year or so" before the exact details of the pension reforms become clear. "There's certainly a sense of urgency to it, but I think that has to be considered in light of the seriousness of the discussion and the complexity of the issues. These are generational decisions. This isn't like we're going to stimulate the economy for a year. This will change people's lives for generations."

One of the federal government's goals will be not to "damage" the Canada Pension Plan through the reforms, Flaherty said, adding CPP was "renowned around the world."

Suspense hinges mostly around whether the ministers will agree to pursue a "pan-Canadian" approach or whether one or more provinces will decide to be the first out of the gate with a supplementary pension plan over and above the Canada/Quebec pension plans.

British Columbia and Alberta have led the charge on creating a voluntary supplemental pension plan atop the CPP. Their finance ministers, Colin Hansen and Iris Evans, say their first choice would be to have all the provinces and the federal government working together to build such a plan.

However, they have also made clear they are not willing to wait much longer for a consensus.

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