Think Globally – Act Locally

“Why do your members care about pension reform – they’re already retired!” I was asked by the Vancouver Sun editorial board while I was on our recent visit to three CARP chapters in British Columbia.

That’s the thing about advocacy, I said. People argue for the things they believe will serve the public good whether or not they can personally benefit. This was a bit of a stretch for the editorial board whose paper had been covering the BC Rail corruption scandal.

The rest of the meeting was a good, strenuous discussion about CARP’s proposals for a Universal Pension Plan. Why mandatory – as most CARP members recommend according to our latest poll? How can anyone with a modest income set aside anymore for their retirement? All good questions. I shared the results of our polling as well as our position paper which address these questions.

But the key question from them and other media has been, is there any real chance that the Finance Ministers June meeting in PEI will lead to any pension reform proposals? Or are they just going to talk some more.

With only two weeks or so to go, my bet is that nothing will come of it. Otherwise, the politicians would be “briefing” everyone on their proposals rather than pushing the “consulting” sessions taking place across the country.

And just as they come out of their meeting in PEI, we head into saturation media coverage of the Queen’s visit and the G8/G20 meetings. Do you suppose retirement income security will make the international economic agenda?

So what to do?

As before, I found the meetings with the provincial ministers to be productive. Certainly, BC Finance Minster Colin Hansen was supportive of pension reform but hastened to add that we cannot call it a crisis. The provincial finance ministers I met on previous chapter visits in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and Manitoba were similarly receptive and supportive. Indeed, the minority report issued on behalf of the provincial and territorial working committee – which we commended in a previous issue of CARP ActionOnline – stressed the need to get started on solutions.

So what is the holdup? It appears that another province may be the anchor weighing things down. Who do you suppose it is?

Clearly, supportive rhetoric is not enough. Nor is it enough for us to want it badly. So far, politicians still do not believe they will have to fight an election on this. Look at BC – they actually included their pension bill in their election platform but where is it now? [You don’t need to write in about the HST promise – I heard all about that when I was in BC]

Every time I stand up in front of our chapters, I ask who did NOT vote in the last election. No one ever raises their hands [except one person who was out of the country the last time]. in fact, no one asks WHICH election I mean. That makes my point – our membership is exactly the demographic that votes regularly. The only problem is that we’re too loyal with our vote. Unless we make the candidates earn our votes, those votes, and we, will continue to be taken for granted.