If you still need a reason to vote for a change in government on October 19th, think pensions. It was recently confirmed through a freedom of information request that the Conservatives are drafting legislation aimed at taking away the promise of a secure pension from federally regulated workers. If the Conservatives are re-elected, that draft will become law.
I’ve already said plenty about the Conservatives threat to encourage “target benefit plans” as a substitute for defined benefit plans. Briefly, what members have now is a guaranteed pension at the end of their service based on a set formula. But with a “target benefit plan,” the pension is not guaranteed, even after you retire. The PSAC made a detailed submission on this more than a year ago, shortly after the “target” concept was floated by Kevin Sorenson, Minister of State for Finance.
At the time, Treasury Board minister Tony Clement called me to say that this proposal would only apply to workers in the federally-regulated sector, not to the public service. His hands were already full with an attempted roll-back of our sick leave.
But he didn’t shut the door either. “Not during this round of talks,” he said. Then, Sorenson’s proposal seemed to vanish without a trace.
Thanks to an Access to Information request filed by Blacklock’s Reporter, an online newsmagazine, we’ve learned that the Harper government has been drafting legislation since last November to strip away pension security for federally-regulated workers, despite Finance Minister Joe Oliver’s statement this past April that no changes would be made without the consent of the retirees. A private letter from Oliver to the chairman of the China Insurance Regulatory Commission reaffirmed what’s been going on behind the scenes: “The introduction of Target Benefit Pension Plans will be an important innovation in Canada and will complement recent efforts by the government to further strengthen Canada’s retirement income system.”
So the issue has not gone away. Just the reverse, in fact.
We’ve already seen the Harper government chipping away at our members’ pensions, raising the eligibility age for young workers and increasing the contribution rate. If these new weakened pension plans are going to be legislated for federally-regulated workers, why wouldn’t Harper do it to us?
Can we accept his government’s assurances, given that his finance minister has now been caught in a lie? Do we have any reason whatsoever to think Harper will leave our pensions alone, out of the goodness of his heart?
And now we have the grim news that Harper is leading in at least one poll. “Closing in on majority territory,” we’re told.
Oh, well, maybe it’s a blip. Things have changed week by week during the campaign so far—perhaps they’ll change back, right?
I say, let’s not leave anything to chance.
Try to imagine what yet another Harper government would do to your pensions. Then go round up ten friends and neighbours and drive them to the polls yourself on October 19 if you have to. You really can’t afford not to.