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

Premier Sandy Silver, left, and Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley speak at a COVID-19 update press conference in Whitehorse on Nov. 19. On Nov. 24, Silver and Hanley announced masks will be mandatory in public places as of Dec. 1, and encouraged Yukoners to begin wearing masks immediately. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Masks mandatory in public places starting on Dec. 1

“The safe six has just got a plus one,” Silver said.

Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, speaks at a press conference in Whitehorse on March 30. Hanley announced three more COVID-19 cases in a release on Nov. 21. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Three more COVID-19 cases, new exposure notice announced

The Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Brendan Hanley, announced three… Continue reading

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: COVID-19 strikes another blow at high-school students

They don’t show up very often in COVID-19 case statistics, but they… Continue reading

The Cornerstone housing project under construction at the end of Main Street in Whitehorse on Nov. 19. Community Services Minister John Streicker said he will consult with the Yukon Contractors Association after concerns were raised in the legislature about COVID-19 isolation procedures for Outside workers at the site. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Concerns raised about alternate self-isolation plans for construction

Minister Streicker said going forward, official safety plans should be shared across a worksite

Beatrice Lorne was always remembered by gold rush veterans as the ‘Klondike Nightingale’. (Yukon Archives/Maggies Museum Collection)
History Hunter: Beatrice Lorne — The ‘Klondike Nightingale’

In June of 1929, 11 years after the end of the First… Continue reading

Samson Hartland is the executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Mines. The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during its annual general meeting held virtually on Nov. 17. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Yukon Chamber of Mines elects new board

The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during… Continue reading

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and — unsurprisingly — hospital visitations were down. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Annual report says COVID-19 had a large impact visitation numbers at Whitehorse General

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and… Continue reading

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

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

City council was closed to public on March 23 due to gathering rules brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The council is now hoping there will be ways to improve access for residents to directly address council, even if it’s a virtual connection. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Solution sought to allow for more public presentations with council

Teleconference or video may provide opportunities, Roddick says

Megan Waterman, director of the Lastraw Ranch, is using remediated placer mine land in the Dawson area to raise local meat in a new initiative undertaken with the Yukon government’s agriculture branch. (Submitted)
Dawson-area farm using placer miner partnership to raise pigs on leased land

“Who in their right mind is going to do agriculture at a mining claim? But this made sense.”

Riverdale residents can learn more details of the City of Whitehorse’s plan to FireSmart a total of 24 hectares in the area of Chadburn Lake Road and south of the Hidden Lakes trail at a meeting on Nov. 26. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)
Meeting will focus on FireSmart plans

Riverdale residents will learn more details of the City of Whitehorse’s FireSmarting… Continue reading

The City of Whitehorse is planning to borrow $10 million to help pay for the construction of the operations building (pictured), a move that has one concillor questioning why they don’t just use reserve funds. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Councillor questions borrowing plan

City of Whitehorse would borrow $10 million for operations building

Most Read