Finance ministers gather for pension summit

This article was originally published by CBC News on December 18th, 2009. To view their webpage, please Click Here

The country’s finance ministers were gathering in Whitehorse Thursday ahead of discussions planned for Friday on how to get Canadians to save more for their retirements.

Central to the negotiations will be a report by noted economist Jack Mintz, whose conclusion is that Canada’s retirement-income system may not be the disaster some make it out to be.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has promised early reform of federal pensions. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Mintz was hired by Ottawa and spent months reviewing retirement savings plans, corporate pensions, the Canada Pension Plan, and income security for seniors.

He has not divulged details of the report, but cautioned against undertaking major reforms to fix pension problems that might not be there.

“There’s a lot of presumptions that people make on all this stuff,” he told The Canadian Press. His main message, he added, is: “We should start with an open mind on some of these issues.”

Alberta and British Columbia come to the meeting wanting the federal government to create a new public pension system to address the fact that only 20 per cent of private-sector workers in their provinces are covered by company pension plans.

If there is no progress in Whitehorse, they say, they’ll go their own way to address the issue.

Ottawa wants all options considered The federal government is in less of a hurry, stressing the need to fully survey all the options first, including having Canadians use the private financial services sector to save for retirement.

Unions such as the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada and retiree associations, including former employees of Nortel Networks, want measures to protect workers and pensioners when their companies become insolvent.

Susan Eng, vice-president of advocacy with retirees’ lobby group CARP, said Ottawa is stalling and she would prefer quick action to develop a new universal pension plan based on the CPP.

Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan said he’ll be presenting his own list of options and his own research report at the Whitehorse meeting. He said he wants agreement on a short list of reform options, a firm timeline for making decisions, an agreement on the strengths of the existing system, and a commitment to hold a national summit on pensions sometime soon.

“I do believe we should have a pan-Canadian response. I don’t think provinces should go off on their own,” he said.

© CBC News

Keywords: pension reform