There is probably nothing more galling than listening to a federal politician talk righteously about the need to keep belts tightened on the Canada Pension Plan.
“We believe that CPP payroll taxes can hurt the economy and distract from what truly matters for all Canadians — keeping our economy strong and our finances in a strong fiscal footing is the plan of this government,” federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said Monday, after a meeting with provincial finance ministers where Flaherty steadfastly refused to talk about increasing CPP premiums and future payouts.
Yeah — a strong economy. That’s what we all wake up in the morning thinking about. Forget coffee or food or heat — there are seniors across this country who get up, stretch, look out the window and say, “I hope this is another strong-economy day. I hope we don’t get distracted from what really matters by having to buy eggs.”
It’s enough to leave a very bad taste in your mouth.
First, there’s Flaherty’s glib little spin line about “payroll taxes.” The CPP is not a payroll tax: it is the last bastion of a pension for seniors in this county, a measly $12,000 a year that is, for many, the one remaining constant in a working world that has seen, under Flaherty’s watch, companies flee from defined benefit pension plans and from pensions altogether.
Companies that argued for the need to take over pension surpluses when times were good now plead poverty and claim they can’t live with the requirement that they actually should pay out the benefits they’ve promised. (Of course, that’s not the way the companies dress it up. The language usually goes, “Our employees don’t want to just settle for a fixed pension. They want to take contributions and manage the money themselves.” File that under Flaherty’s “what truly matters for all Canadians” — or, more realistically, what really matters for Bay Street.)
There’s a wave of grey coming in Canada, an aging population that’s, more and more, going to have to depend on a CPP that is ill-equipped to meet even their basic needs. And, in case the country’s most senior finance official doesn’t understand economics, those without money have needs that have to be met by governments in other ways — and, with no money to spend, can’t help power that all-important economy.
Think of it this way: instead of hurting the
economy, Flaherty and his fellows are willing to hurt people — real people — instead.
Merry, Merry Christmas, brought to you by
Canada’s caring party.
Of course, what makes it all so galling is that the CPP will probably be chump change to Flaherty when he retires. Why? Because, while he is not willing to vote for a viable pension for all Canadians, he and his fellows have been more than willing to vote themselves generous pensions that no longer exist for anyone else.
Unlike Flaherty’s cute description of CPP as a payroll tax, we’ll be paying into his comfortable retirement funds with real taxes.
The hardship of the many, the benefit of the few.