Stakes Higher For Senior Women
Improving retirement income is especially important for women, as senior women are twice as likely to live in poverty than men.
Women’s wages continue to be lower than men’s, young women are more likely to work low-paying, part-time jobs with no pensions, and women are more likely to have interrupted careers due to care-giving responsibilities — all these factors contribute to lower lifetime earnings that make it more challenging for women to live in dignity and security.
OVERVIEW: Pension Security For Seniors
When working families retire, they deserve fair and adequate pensions that allow them to live with dignity. After a lifetime of hard work, no one should have to retire in poverty.
It’s no surprise that many families today are worried about not being able to afford to retire, since nearly two out of every three working Canadians (that’s 11 million workers) have no workplace pension plan. This is a serious problem, especially as the oldest baby boomers get ready to turn 70 this year.
Even those with a workplace pension don’t always have sufficient means to retire with security. Many plans saw their value undermined by the global financial crisis, and more and more workplace pension plans are seeing benefit reductions and erosion away from guaranteed defined benefits. This leaves the CPP as the primary means by which most workers, especially young workers, routinely save for retirement.
Canada is overdue for a universal expansion of the Canadian Pension Plan (CPP). Without action from the federal and provincial governments to make this happen, retirement insecurity will continue to rise, and more seniors will wind up in poverty.
Governments at all levels also have an obligation to act as responsible employers when it comes to protecting the workplace pension plans of the public sector workers, including providing adequate funding for pensions negotiated through collective bargaining. During the 1990s, Manitoba’s Auditor General criticized the Filmon Government repeatedly for failing to adequately fund the government’s pension liability, allowing a major unfunded liability to build up as debt, and putting the pensions of public sectors workers at risk.
Expanding the CPP “Crucial”
Expanding the CPP is the most fair, safe and effective solution to enhance retirement security for all working families.
The CPP benefits everyone – it is a mandatory plan that leaves no one behind, and follows workers from workplace to workplace as they change jobs over their lifetime.
The CPP is a “defined benefit plan”, providing a basic level of earnings replacement for all Canadian workers, funded jointly by worker and employer contributions. The CPP is also safe and cost-effective, with affordable premiums, low management fees and guaranteed benefits for life, including annual adjustments for cost of living.
Under the former Harper Conservative Government, Canada actually went backwards on retirement security. Despite Canada’s looming retirement income crisis, the Harper government blocked any expansion of the CPP, and actually raised the qualifying age for Old Age Security (OAS) from 65 to 67 years of age.
The new federal government has committed to reversing the OAS change in age eligibility, but despite some early promising signs, federal and provincial Finance Ministers have yet to move forward on a concrete plan for CPP expansion.
Setting The Election Bar
Working Families Manitoba is asking political parties and candidates to commit to:
- Support expansion of the CPP for all workers; and,
- Protect / adequately fund public sector workplace pension plans.
WHERE THE PARTIES STAND
No stated position as of this moment.
- Have advocated strongly for universal CPP expansion; and,
- Have provided adequate funding for public sector pension liabilities.
The PCs have been relatively quiet about CPP expansion specifically. However, leader Brian Pallister was quick to pan an idea put forward to establish a universal Manitoba pension plan if the federal government fails to act on the CPP. According to the Winnipeg Free Press (Jan 19, 2015):
Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister said [NDP leadership candidate Theresa] Oswald’s pension plan idea is just another form of taxation.
“It’s a pension-tax proposal,” Pallister told reporters today. “She’s distracting from the real point which is how can we encourage Manitobans to save when their incomes are going down under the NDP.
“Ms. Oswald is telling these people who have less money that she’s going to force them to invest more for retirement. She’s taking away their choices, she’s taking away their right, to decide how to invest their own hard-earned money.”
With respect to government’s own pension obligations, the last time the PCs were in office, they did not properly fund their public sector pension obligations, creating an unfunded liability that was criticized by the Auditor General, and putting the pensions of public sector workers at risk.