Harper’s pension reform: manufacturing crises

Treasury Board president Tony Clement told reporters on Tuesday that "all options are on the table" to solve Canada's looming pension crisis.

Treasury Board president Tony Clement told reporters on Tuesday that “all options are on the table” to solve Canada’s looming pension crisis. “All options” is a very broad term, but experienced Clement watchers know not to interpret his remarks too literally.

Take last year, for instance, when he told Parliament that he would turn himself over to the police if anyone could prove he chose the projects to be funded by the $50-million G8 slush fund in his Muskoka riding. Now that we’ve all seen the proof, it turns out Clement was speaking figuratively. “Turn myself in to the police” actually means “stonewall, deny, and keep pretending the evidence means nothing.”

So when he says, “all options,” it’s more than likely Clement means, “some options, which, we’ve already decided on.” Rest assured that certain options will not be considered. The option to build up the pension plan by paying back the G8 millions, which even if they had been distributed legally, were misappropriated in the first place, is not on the table. Neither is the option to roll back the Conservatives’ multi-billion-dollar tax giveaway to the filthy rich, or to quit rewarding Conservative bag-men with $132,000-a-year Senate seats.

Also missing from the table is the option to be honest with Canadians. If the government were to pursue that option, the pension crisis would be solved in a single stroke. Because, according to extensive research commissioned by the government, the crisis does not exist.

Edward Whitehouse, pension policy researcher for the OECD, studied Canada’s pension plan in 2009. The study, posted on the Department of Finance webpage, found that “Canada does not face major challenges of financial sustainability with its public pension schemes,” and “there is no pressing financial or fiscal need to increase pension ages in the foreseeable future.” In 2010, York University political science professor Thomas Klassen co-authored a study that found the same.

Harper and Clement and cheerleaders, like National Post columnist Andrew Coyne, are tossing around some scary numbers to support the notion that Canada needs to gouge a few million bucks out of the Old Age Security system. OAS cost $36.5 billion in 2010, they tell us, but that figure will skyrocket to $108-billion in 2030. In the meantime, demographic projections suggest that we will have far fewer taxpayers to support the system.

But oops, they forgot to factor in inflation and immigration. According to the Whitehouse study, pension spending is now 2.41 per cent of GDP, and will peak at 3.14 per cent in 2030, after which it will drop back to today’s levels by 2055. As to the size of the working population, the government sets immigration targets, and there is no shortage of willing workers who’d love to be paying into the Canadian pension plan.

Why are the Conservatives cooking the figures to create a phony pension crisis? Simple: they need the money. Harper’s tax cuts will cost $220 billion. He’s facing a $17-billion deficit. He plans to buy the most expensive fighter jets in the world. He’s about to pass a sweeping crime bill with no real notion of the cost. And let’s not forget the need to set a few million aside for Peter MacKay’s travel expenses.

Expect more phony crises and more attacks on social programs before this government burns itself out. Harper is going to need plenty of money over the next four years. On top of everything else, the country is still full of loyal Conservatives who don’t have Senate seats.

Al Pope won the Ma Murray Award for Best Columnist in BC/Yukon in 2010 and 2002. His novel, Bad Latitudes, is available in bookstores.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

asdf
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Jan. 27, 2021

An avalanche warning sigh along the South Klondike Highway. Local avalanche safety instructors say interest in courses has risen during the pandemic as more Yukoners explore socially distanced outdoor activities. (Tom Patrick/Yukon News file)
Backcountry busy: COVID-19 has Yukoners heading for the hills

Stable conditions for avalanches have provided a grace period for backcountry newcomers

Several people enter the COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Coast High Country Inn Convention Centre in Whitehorse on Jan. 26. The Yukon government announced on Jan. 25 that residents of Whitehorse, Ibex Valley, Marsh Lake and Mount Lorne areas 65 and older can now receive their vaccines. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Vaccine appointments available in Whitehorse for residents 65+

Yukoners 65 and older living in Whitehorse are now eligible to receive… Continue reading

Diane McLeod-McKay, Yukon’s Ombudsman and information and privacy commissioner, filed a petition on Dec. 11 after her office was barred from accessing documents related to a child and family services case. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon government rejects Ombudsman requests for documentation filed to Supreme Court

Diane McLeod-McKay filed a petition on Dec. 11 after requests for documents were barred

The bus stop at the corner of Industrial and Jasper Road in Whitehorse on Jan. 25. The stop will be moved approximately 80 metres closer to Quartz Road. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
UPDATED: Industrial Road bus stop to be relocated

The city has postponed the move indefinitely

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachment in Faro photgraphed in 2016. Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old building currently accommodating officers. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Faro RCMP tagged for new detachment

Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old… Continue reading

In a Jan. 18 announcement, the Yukon government said the shingles vaccine is now being publicly funded for Yukoners between age 65 and 70, while the HPV vaccine program has been expanded to all Yukoners up to and including age 26. (1213rf.com)
Changes made to shingles, HPV vaccine programs

Pharmacists in the Yukon can now provide the shingles vaccine and the… Continue reading

Parking attendant Const. Ouellet puts a parking ticket on the windshield of a vehicle in downtown Whitehorse on Dec. 6, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is hoping to write of nearly $300,000 in outstanding fees, bylaw fines and court fees, $20,225 of which is attributed to parking fines issued to non-Yukon license plates. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City of Whitehorse could write off nearly $300,000

The City of Whitehorse could write off $294,345 in outstanding fees, bylaw… Continue reading

Grants available to address gender-based violence

Organizations could receive up to $200,000

In this illustration, artist-journalist Charles Fripp reveals the human side of tragedy on the Stikine trail to the Klondike in 1898. A man chases his partner around the tent with an axe, while a third man follows, attempting to intervene. (The Daily Graphic/July 27, 1898)
History Hunter: Charles Fripp — gold rush artist

The Alaskan coastal town of Wrangell was ill-equipped for the tide of… Continue reading

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. While Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis is now setting his sights on the upcoming territorial election, other members of council are still pondering their election plans for the coming year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillors undecided on election plans

Municipal vote set for Oct. 21

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decicions made by Whitehorse city council this week.

Most Read