26,000 small business owners call for public sector pension fairness
Forget Old Age Security, public sector pensions need fixing first, according to a Canadian business group that delivered signed petitions to MPs in Ottawa Monday.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business says it is one of the fastest growing campaigns the organization has ever launched. Over 26,000 small- and medium-sized businesses have signed petitions calling for fairness in Canada’s public sector pension system.
“Canada’s public sector retirement system is in terrible shape and action is needed now to fix it,” said Dan Kelly, CFIB’s senior vice-president in Ottawa. “In recent meetings with Prime Minister Harper, Finance Minister Flaherty and Treasury Board President Clement, CFIB has asked government to work quickly to ensure that public sector pensions – starting with MP pensions – are both sustainable and fair to taxpayers. Right now, public sector pensions fail both tests.”
Sustainability: Estimates of the size of the main federal public sector pension liability range from $150 to $230 billion. This does not include MPs, judges, Canada Post or other Crown Corporations.
“Bills for underfunded pensions are coming due in Europe and the US, requiring tax hikes and cuts in benefits to current and future retirees,” Kelly noted. “Canada can and should do better.”
Fairness: In Ottawa, civil servants have access to one of the best pension plans in the country, but contribute just over one-third of the pensions costs with taxpayers picking up the rest. In addition, civil servants can retire on a full pension at a much younger age than taxpayers. Government policies actually encourage civil servants to retire early by topping up pensions to cover off the CPP/QPP penalty that other Canadians would incur if they retired before 65.
“CFIB is not calling on governments to remove any pension benefits that have already been earned by retirees or active civil servants,” Kelly said, “but we are asking government to ensure all of its employees pay half of their pensions and become eligible to retire at the same age as the taxpayers who pay their salaries. MPs too have an important leadership role in reducing the generosity of their own ‘platinum’ pension plan to give them the legitimacy to address the much larger issue of public sector pensions,” Kelly added.
CFIB urges government to fix public sector pensions before considering any changes to retirement programs for taxpayers.
“To ask taxpayers to wait until 67 to collect Old Age Security (OAS) while government employees can retire at 55 is just not on,” Kelly said. Governments need to address political and civil service pension schemes before any changes to OAS or CPP/QPP are contemplated.”
About the Author (Author Profile)
Markham began his journalism career writing columns in the mid-1980s for Western People Magazine, then reported for a small Saskatchewan daily. He has spent most of his career in media and communications, likes to dabble in politics, was actively involved in economic development for many years, thinks that what goes on in the community is just as important as what happens provincially and nationally, and has a soft spot for small business (big business, not so much). Markham is a bit of a contrarian and usually has a unique take on the events of the day.