Higher re­tire­ment age needed, Ot­tawa told

Ad­vis­ers also fo­cus on im­prov­ing child care

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - ANDY BLATCHFORD

OT­TAWA — The Trudeau gov­ern­ment’s eco­nomic ad­vi­sory coun­cil is rec­om­mend­ing Ot­tawa raise the age of re­tire­ment el­i­gi­bil­ity and ex­plore a na­tional child-care pro­gram to boost much-needed par­tic­i­pa­tion in the coun­try’s work­force.

The pro­pos­als were among a col­lec­tion of new sug­ges­tions re­leased Mon­day by the gov­ern­ment’s hand-picked growth coun­cil.

The ideas are widely ex­pected to help the gov­ern­ment frame parts of the up­com­ing fed­eral bud­get.

The ad­vis­ers ze­roed in on what they called a need to in­crease labour-force par­tic­i­pa­tion from un­der-rep­re­sented groups such as indige­nous peo­ple, lower-in­come earn­ers, women with chil­dren, and older work­ers.

To en­cour­age older Cana­di­ans to work longer, the coun­cil rec­om­mended the ages of el­i­gi­bil­ity for old age se­cu­rity and the Canada Pen­sion Plan be “re­cal­i­brated and in­creased” to ad­dress the im­pacts of the coun­try’s ag­ing so­ci­ety and longer life ex­pectan­cies.

The idea con­trasts with the Lib­eral

gov­ern­ment’s move, based on a 2015 cam­paign vow, to re­verse a con­tro­ver­sial de­ci­sion taken by the for­mer Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment and re­turn old age se­cu­rity el­i­gi­bil­ity to 65 from 67.

Rais­ing the el­i­gi­bil­ity age so that it closes the gap be­tween Canada and in­dus­tri­al­ized coun­tries with the high­est labour par­tic­i­pa­tion rate among work­ers 55 and over could add $56 bil­lion to the gross do­mes­tic prod­uct, the coun­cil’s re­port said.

The doc­u­ment also sug­gested Ot­tawa al­low old age se­cu­rity and the CPP de­fer­rals be­yond age 70 and en­sure that de­fer­rals past 65 are more at­trac­tive.

The coun­cil’s chair stressed Mon­day that any pol­icy changes should take into con­sid­er­a­tion the dif­fer­ing abil­i­ties of some groups of older Cana­di­ans to con­tinue work­ing, par­tic­u­larly those in phys­i­cally de­mand­ing jobs.

“We are for more able-bod­ied Cana­di­ans to work longer in the sys­tem,” said Do­minic Bar­ton, who is the man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of global con­sult­ing gi­ant McKin­sey & Co.

“For those who can, we do think we should look at in­cen­tives to try and en­cour­age them to be able to work.”

In­deed, later Mon­day, Finance Min­is­ter Bill Morneau said the gov­ern­ment is look­ing at ways to en­cour­age peo­ple to stay in the labour force, if they choose to keep work­ing and are able to do so.

He added Ot­tawa would con­sider the coun­cil’s rec­om­men­da­tion to in­crease par­tic­i­pa­tion among peo­ple who are able to keep work­ing.

“We moved the age of the old age se­cu­rity sys­tem to age 65 rec­og­niz­ing that a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of Cana­di­ans are very chal­lenged to work past that time,” Morneau told re­porters.

“We also want to be sure that we think about the de­mo­graphic chal­lenges that are to come.”

As it maps out fu­ture plans, he said the gov­ern­ment would also con­sider the coun­cil’s other rec­om­men­da­tions, which he noted were par­tially based on 29,000 formal sub­mis­sions from Cana­di­ans.

The re­port also pro­posed boost­ing the econ­omy by rais­ing labour­force par­tic­i­pa­tion for women with chil­dren through the pos­si­ble cre­ation of a sub­si­dized na­tional child­care pro­gram sim­i­lar to the Que­bec model.

Ot­tawa is al­ready in talks with the prov­inces about ex­pand­ing early child­hood ed­u­ca­tion.

Here’s a quick run­down of some of the other rec­om­men­da­tions in Mon­day’s re­port:

En­sur­ing work­ers up­grade their skills to bet­ter match the rapidly chang­ing needs of the labour mar­ket with help from a new, arm’slength na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tion. The re­port rec­om­mended Ot­tawa in­vest $100 mil­lion in each of the next five years to es­tab­lish an agency that would de­velop new ap­proaches to re­train work­ers. It warned that nearly half of Cana­dian jobs are at high risk of be­ing af­fected by fu­ture tech­no­log­i­cal change, such as au­to­ma­tion.

Tak­ing steps to make Canada more pro­duc­tive, such as im­prov­ing ac­cess to cap­i­tal for promis­ing firms and en­sur­ing pro­cure­ment poli­cies help sup­port fast-grow­ing busi­nesses.

De­vel­op­ing strate­gies to make the most of what it sees as vast un­tapped po­ten­tial in up to eight key Cana­dian sec­tors by iden­ti­fy­ing and re­mov­ing ob­sta­cles such as reg­u­la­tory hur­dles. The re­port rec­om­mended a pi­lot project for the agri­cul­ture and food in­dus­try, where it said there is still room for ma­te­rial eco­nomic gains to be made.

Ex­pand­ing trade to deepen the re­la­tion­ships with the United States and Mex­ico as well as forg­ing closer ties with China, Ja­pan and In­dia. It sug­gested mak­ing greater in­vest­ments in trade-re­lated in­fra­struc­ture, such as ports and high­ways.

“Much like ‘tools in a tool kit,’ these rec­om­men­da­tions can be used in con­cert and with strate­gic in­tent to dra­mat­i­cally ac­cel­er­ate growth,” the re­port said

“Re­al­iz­ing such an am­bi­tious as­pi­ra­tion, amid rapid eco­nomic and so­ci­etal change, will re­quire fo­cused, per­sis­tent and con­certed ac­tion.”

The ex­perts reaf­firmed their long-term ob­jec­tive to help add $15,000 to the an­nual pre-tax in­comes of Cana­dian house­holds, above their cur­rent pro­jec­tions, by 2030.

Do­minic Bar­ton, chief ad­viser to the Trudeau gov­ern­ment

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