Every Canadian deserves to retire with dignity. But more and more Canadians are facing uncertainty when it comes to their retirement plans.
Retirement insecurity is a growing national crisis that demands national leadership. Over 40 per cent of Canadians expect to retire later than they planned. Over 55 per cent of Canadians would face financial difficulty if pay was delayed one week. When Canadians are pinched too tight, they have a harder time saving for their retirement.
Within this context, our public pensions - the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), Old Age Security (OAS) and Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) - are critical support systems for all Canadians. At least 11 million Canadians are without a workplace pension, and rely strongly on these crucial public pension programs.
Public pensions also play an important role for workers with workplace pension plans. For CUPE members in the public service the average workplace pension for a 30-year employee would be a modest $17,900 a year. These workers also depend on our public pension programs for a secure retirement.
However, the social safety net we provide for our seniors is under attack. In the last federal budget, the age when Canadians can qualify for OAS and GIS was pushed back two years. In the coming decades, Canadians will only be eligible for these universal programs when they reach the age of 67. The government argued that these programs were unsustainable, despite the claims of numerous experts, the non-partisan Parliamentary Budget Officer and the OECD to the contrary.
It is beyond time for a solution to this crisis, and it is important that stakeholders like business, labour, government and academics come together to discuss the challenge of retirement security.
Today I attended a meeting with leaders from the pension section to discuss the health of private and public pensions. I spoke to them about CUPE’s pension campaign and our research on the health of public pensions. It was refreshing to see people from the business and investment community come together to discuss the issues. This is the type of meeting we need more often for a solution that works for all Canadians’ retirement security.
CUPE, along with many labour groups, seniors organizations and provincial governments, supports an expansion of the Canada Pension Plan. We would like to see a gradual doubling of Canada Pension Plan benefits for all working Canadians. Under this plan, by gradually increasing CPP contribution rates by about 3 percent over 7 years, Canadians will – over time - receive 50 percent of their income in CPP benefits, rather than the current insufficient 25 percent.
Additionally, we need to immediately increase GIS amounts for our poorest seniors. The current benefit levels paid under these still leave too many Canadian seniors living in poverty – numbers which will only increase as the age of eligibility for this program rises.
There is a willingness among business, labour and political leaders to build a real solution for retirement security. We are all ready to come to the table. What we need is leadership from government.