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This article was published 15/12/2013 (2294 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA — Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is suggesting he may present his own targeted proposal on pension reform at today's meeting with provincial colleagues, saying he is still concerned about raising taxes in difficult economic times.
The minister told reporters some proposals calling for increases in contribution rates to the Canada Pension Plan to pay for enriched benefits can potentially damage the economy and may be too broad.
"You don't need a bazooka to go after a specific issue; you want to be more targeted, more precise," he said Sunday night on his way to dinner with his provincial counterparts.
"I think we have to be targeted, because the group that needs help pension-wise is 23 or 24 per cent of the Canadian population. It's not poor people. There is a group of middle-class people that we need to be concerned about and there are different ways of approaching that."
Most experts agree CPP and other government income programs are adequate income replacements in retirement for most lower-income earners.
It was unclear whether Flaherty will be presenting a specific proposal today at the meeting that is shaping up as a showdown over whether to enrich the CPP, with Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa and Prince Edward Island's Wes Sheridan leading the way.
But the federal minister noted as yet, the pro-CPP-enrichment provinces don't have "a consensus to move forward right away."
Sousa took some encouragement Flaherty is acknowledging middle-class earners, more than half of whom do not have a company pension plan, could face financial difficulties in retirement.
He noted provincial finance ministers last month agreed on "a set of objectives and principles that should be addressed now so we can be prepared for the inevitable."
In a recent interview, Sousa said he did not expect to come out of today's meeting with a concrete program that can be implemented once the economy is sufficiently recovered, but does expect ministers to agree in principle to move ahead on the issue, with the exact timing and details to be developed later.
Ontario has also suggested it may move ahead on its own if there is no progress.
For approval, CPP enhancement would require seven provinces representing two-thirds of the population.
Observers believe aside from Ontario and P.E.I., Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Manitoba favour some kind of CPP enhancement measure, with Quebec just recently joining the camp.
Meanwhile, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick are expressing reservations — along with Ottawa — mostly to do with the scope and timing of the initiative.
Susan Eng of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons, who has lobbied for CPP enhancement, said she would be satisfied with a "conditional yes" if the ministers set hard triggers for enacting changes, such as specific levels of economic growth and employment rates.
She added it was not enough to "simply say when things get better."
— The Canadian Press