It’s not an exaggeration to say that since 1993 when I was first elected to today, I’ve noted that Kootenay residents 60 years and over have always been tuned into politics. Consequently, I’ve made a special effort to listen and learn from them.
The result? Kootenay Columbia concerns about pensions and tax burdens have been heard in Ottawa.
Our Conservative government has been engaged in a very serious discussion with Canadians on pensions and pension security throughout the year. Moreover, we have also taken concrete action to strengthen Canada’s retirement income system and reduce the tax burden on seniors since forming the government in 2006.
First, we have been reviewing issues related to pensions under federal jurisdiction. In January, we released for public comment a major research paper on the legislative and regulatory regime for federally regulated private pension plans (http://www.fin.gc.ca/activty/consult/pensions-eng.asp). From March to May, Ted Menzies additionally conducted extensive cross-country and online public consultations open to all Canadians on the legislative and regulatory framework for federally regulated private pension plans (http://www.fin.gc.ca/n08/09-018-eng.asp). Based on the tremendous feedback received, comprehensive regulatory changes to improve the federal pension framework are being drafted and will be released shortly.
Second, along with provincial and territorial governments, in May we conducted and completed the mandated triennial review of the Canada Pension Plan (CPP). Reforms to CPP to allow greater flexibility in how Canadians retire were unanimously agreed to by all governments as part of that review. These reforms include the removal of the requirement for individuals to stop working or reduce earnings for two months in order to take up CPP and permitting more low-earnings years to be excluded from the pension calculation (http://www.fin.gc.ca/n08/09-051-eng.asp).
Third, we have long recognized the need to work with our provincial partners to examine the larger pension concerns facing Canadians. Indeed, under 10% of pension plans are federally regulated, with the majority provincially regulated (for instance, the Nortel pension plan is regulated under the Ontario Pension Benefits Standards Act). That’s why we raised the issue at the annual meeting of finance ministers in late 2008 and, earlier this year, set up a joint federal-provincial research working group — with respected academic Jack Mintz as director of research — to conduct an in-depth examination of retirement income adequacy. I have already convened a national summit of all my provincial and territorial counterparts for this coming December to discuss the findings of this important group (http://www.fin.gc.ca/n08/09-072-eng.asp).
Fourth, in June, to help protect pension benefits while allowing companies more flexibility in meeting their pension obligations, we brought into force of new regulations to provide temporary solvency funding relief for federally regulated defined benefit pension plans. The measures cover plans established for employees working in areas that fall under federal jurisdiction (http://www.fin.gc.ca/n08/09-059-eng.asp).
Clearly, our Conservative government is working to protect seniors and pensioners. While others play catch-up, we’re delivering results.
Jim Abbott is the Conservative Party MP for Kootenay-Columbia
You can contact him through his Cranbrook office at 1-800-668-5522 or his Parliament Hill office in Ottawa at 1-613-995-7246