Michael Ignatieff – Statement on Pension Reform

April 2010: We reached out to a variety of politicians and invite them to inform our readers of their views on pension reform by drafting a position statement for publication. Here are the answers we received:

To the Members of CARP,

Starting last year, amid growing concerns over the future of pension plans and Canadians’ abilities to save for their retirement, the Liberal Party began consulting with pensioners, as well as representatives of labour, small and large business, financial analysts, seniors’ groups and many non-profit and poverty organizations.

We became increasingly concerned as we watched the Harper Conservative government sit idly by while thousands of pensioners were losing their life savings, and as it became clearer that many Canadians are not saving enough for their retirement.

Our Seniors and Pensions Critic, Judy Sgro, has been very active on pension issues. Following a national pensions forum that she hosted last fall, we presented a series of proposals for pension reform that would help more Canadians save for retirement and protect those who face losing pension income through bankruptcy.

We have repeatedly called on the Harper government to act swiftly on our proposals and made pension security a key part of the policy discussion within our party, most recently hosting an expert panel – “Safeguarding Retirement Beyond 2017” – in Montreal at our Canada at 150: Rising to the Challenge policy conference.

Our proposals for pension reform call for:

• a Supplementary Canada Pension Plan (SCPP) to help Canadians save more;
• giving employees with stranded pensions following bankruptcy the option of growing their pension assets through the Canada Pension Plan; and
• protecting vulnerable Canadians on long-term disability by giving them preferred status as creditors in case of bankruptcy.

Supported by several provinces and pension experts, a national SCPP is one possible solution to the problem of low retirement savings. By providing an simple way for Canadians to put their extra savings towards future retirement income, a SCPP should be considered as part of reforms to the income security system that also include Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement.

How many more Canadians whose companies have gone bankrupt have to see their pension savings evaporate before the Harper government acts? We’re demanding that the government give employees with stranded pensions the option of growing their pension assets through the Canada Pension Plan.

This voluntary option would guarantee pension principal and ensure pensions aren’t locked in when businesses go bankrupt and market conditions are at their worst, protecting them from future market turmoil.

Finally, many Canadians on long-term disability lost everything when their employers went bankrupt. That’s why we’ve introduced a plan that would give the most vulnerable on long-term disability preferred status as creditors.

The current government continues to drag its feet on pension reform – after more than four years of waiting they continue to stall progress on pension reform, announcing redundant consultations when action is needed. We believe the time is now for government to step up and make saving for retirement easier and more secure for all Canadians, and we hope to work with CARP to ensure that the needs of pensioners are addressed.