The pension fight is on

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) isn't taking any chances.

With Friday's meeting of the Council of the Federation, the business group is campaigning hard against an expansion of the Canada Pension Plan and the Quebec Pension Plan.

The business group, backed by conservative think tanks, got especially jittery when Finance Minister Jim Flaherty mused a few weeks ago that expanding CPP benefits is a good idea -- just not now. "How about never?" seems to sum up the position of many opponents.

Flaherty weighed in on the CCP debate because some provinces are pushing for an expansion as the best way to tackle retirement insecurity.

They're right: 65% of the workforce has no pension plan.

That means 11 million Canadians get to roll the dice on private retirement savings options to boost the public part of the retirement savings system (OAS, GIS and CPP/QPP) -- that's if they have cash to sock away. (Check out this nifty calculator showing how the financial industry leeches off people's RRSP savings).

As Rhys Kesselman, one of Canada's leading pension experts and Canada Research Chair in public finance at Simon Fraser University, put it recently in an opinion piece in the Globe and Mail: "Ignore the 'job-killing' mantra. It's time to expand CPP benefits."

Kesselman evicerates CFIB's central argument -- that higher CPP premiums are just like any other hike in payroll taxes, and would result in a loss of 700,000 "person years of employments" in the first 20 years.

"For skeptics and outright opponents, no time is the right time to enhance CPP benefits and ensure the income security of millions of future Canadian retirees. Concern over the effects of CPP premium hikes is unwarranted and should not be allowed to block this important policy any longer," Kesselman wrote.

CFIB isn't going to give up that easily. Check out the group's back-and-forth on Twitter with supporters of an expanded CPP.

Photo: Tania Liu. Used under a Creative Commons BY-ND 2.0 licence. 

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