Be careful what you wish for. And beware your political friends. Retirement security is the great hope — and hype — of Canadian politics: Boosting the paltry Canada Pension Plan after 60 years of inadequacy remains the unfinished business of our modern social security system.
Now, after eight years of private manoeuvring and public electioneering, the battle to expand the CPP is building to a climax. But the campaign rests on a knife’s edge that could rip apart more recent reforms in Ontario.
If the campaign for a robust CPP expansion somehow succeeds this summer — lifting our national pension plan from among the lowest levels in the industrialized world — all Canadians will be better off. But if a behind-the-scenes effort by Ottawa and the provinces falters — or is diluted to the point of pointless symbolism — we will all be the poorer for it.
Ontario’s Liberal government is caught in the middle — under pressure to accept a grand (albeit minimal) national compromise, lest it be scapegoated for getting in the way of the federal Liberals.
Paradoxically, the battle for a rigorous and generous pension for working people has almost been achieved in Canada’s biggest province. Armed with her 2014 election mandate, Premier Kathleen Wynne secured passage just this week of her Ontario Retirement Pension Plan, which would effectively double the maximum pensions for workers who pay into it over a lifetime.
It ranks as one of the boldest social innovations in a generation — fully funded and carefully targeted, a testament to practicality in times of uncertainty.
But the ORPP is on life support at the moment of its birth. While starting up and scaling up — premium collection begins in a mere 18 months — the plan risks being wound down before ever getting off the ground.
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