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MEECH LAKE, QUE.— Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan says Ottawa and the provinces are moving too slowly to improve Canadians’ pensions but an agreement reached Monday to study how to build up the Canada Pension Plan is “an important step forward.”
After a daylong meeting, federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and his provincial counterparts agreed to give their officials until June to lay out a strategy for increasing contributions and premiums under the CPP, the country’s main pension program.
Duncan has been pushing hard to convince federal and provincial leaders to enhance CPP to deal with Canada’s growing pension crisis, but Flaherty has said doing so while the economy is fragile would be too much of a burden on business.
An upbeat Duncan told reporters he “didn’t think we’d come out with this today.” He added that, while there isn’t a consensus among provincial premiers to increase the CPP right now, “there’s certainly an overwhelming majority of provinces that do want to move forward” on the pension program.
By their next meeting in June, finance ministers will have in hand studies on what a “modest” increase in CPP would mean in terms of contributions by employees and employers as well as changes in benefits. Also, officials will report on what level of Canadian economic growth would provide reassurance that the economy could withstand any possible negative impact on businesses of CPP increases.
Flaherty supported an increase in the CPP two years ago but changed his mind, saying there was no consensus among provinces. In the meantime, he set up a new private retirement savings measure, the Pooled Registered Pension Plan. But some critics say it is inadequate to deal with the current pension problem.