Pre-Budget Consultations – have your say

The turmoil that has gripped the world economy challenges all governments to take bold action – action that cannot wait for political transitions to happen at their usual pace. So in the United States, president elect Barack Obama has been announcing stimulus measures even while building his cabinet.

In Canada, the government nearly fell on an Economic Statement that admittedly did not contain economic stimulus measures. Lost in the political gamesmanship was any real relief for Canadians watching their retirement savings evaporate. However, it must be said that in an Economic Statement that contained few other measures, the 25% reduction in mandated RRIF withdrawals has to be seen as an indication that the government had to respond to all your emails and letters to the MPs and the Finance Minister as well as the saturation media coverage we got on the issue across the country. Even the Opposition Coalition offered to increase that to 50%, somehow forgetting that the Liberals had promised a full 2-year moratorium during the election that is now but a distant memory.

A second kick at the can will come with the federal budget scheduled for January 27th, 2009. This is the time to make your priorities known. The usual processes of pre-budget consultations have now been telescoped. The Department of Finance just announced a series of Roundtables – no dates have been publicized and the invitation list is apparently closed. It is thought that mostly corporate CEOs have been invited. In addition, the rest of us may wish to answer the Department’s online survey which lists five main priorities for Economic Stimulus: Infrastructure, Housing, Labour, Industry Support and Credit Access. The online consultations will end at midnight, January 9, 2009.

Pensions and retirement security are not listed among the 5 main priorities – but you are invited to add these and other suggestions in the “other” category. This would be a good spot to enter your views on RRIF withdrawals and pension protection. Canadians can certainly provide useful input as to priorities for an Economic Stimulus package. Indeed, three quarters of respondents to our last survey believe government stimulus spending can help the economic situation.

CARP believes that Canadians also need attention paid to those issues that directly threaten their financial security and wellbeing. For this reason, CARP will be making a submission directly to all the Ministers of Finance in advance of their scheduled meeting on December 17, 2008, in Saskatoon to discuss the upcoming budget. A copy of our submission will be posted as soon as it released.

To help with our submission, please take a moment to answer the questions in the CARPActionOnline Poll. We will summarize the answers as we normally do and report on whether our readers’ opinions align with that of the general public on Economic Stimulus priorities as well as your opinion on what the January 27th Budget should address to ease your own circumstances.

If you would like to make your views known directly to your provincial Minister of Finance or the federal Minister of Finance, especially about being left out of the Pre-Budget Roundtables you can email them directly: