Retirement security needed for all

EdmontonJournal.com – business – Re: “Entitlements under siege,” Opinion, July 8.
July 15, 2011.   Marble Roberts

Fortunately for all Canadians, our system is very different from that of Greece and the United States. Despite what the right-wing thinktanks would have people believe, a strong public service not only stabilizes the economy so that all people have access to accountable and reliable services, it is the foundation of free and democratic societies.

So called “entitlements” like pension plans and health benefits should be available to all Canadians. Those who oppose decent retirement incomes go to great lengths to misrepresent public-sector worker pension plans. Public-sector workers make significant contributions to pay for future pension benefits. An average pension for a 30-year employee would be a modest $17,900 a year.

But that’s not the point. The point is that all Canadians should have a right to a secure income in our retirement years. Instead, only one in five workers in the private sector belong to a workplace pension plan. And only one in four Canadians is able to contribute to an RSP. We can start to address this crisis through a balanced approach that combines strong workplace pensions with public pension plans that cover all working people.

We can strengthen the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) with a phasedin doubling of benefits to a maximum of about $23,000 a year. This would offer secure and enhanced pension benefits for the 93 per cent of Canadians who make CPP contributions.

The CPP is extremely efficient -management and administrative fees are a fraction of those charged by mutual fund companies. Expanding benefits can be achieved with a very small contribution increase for workers and employers.

And we must raise the guaranteed income supplement (GIS) to lift hundreds of thousands of poor pensioners out of poverty. Instead of looking for ways to take away what one group has, we need to work to improve pensions for all.

Marble Roberts, President, CUPE Alberta

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