Don’t touch retirement benefit eligibility
Are we about to see another Trudeau government reversal with retirement benefit eligibility moving later? How about a national daycare program structured somewhat like the one in Quebec? Will the pre-tax income of average Canadian households increase by $15,000 over the next few years?
These are some of the suggestions, recommendations and goals put forward by the government’s handpicked council of experts on how to encourage economic growth. They’re creating a buzz, because this council was hand-picked by Finance Minister Bill Morneau to advise the government on how to boost long-term growth. And some of the last set of recommendations ended up in the government’s first budget, which leads some to speculate the same will happen this time around.
These are some smart folks, no doubt. Some of their ideas make sense. Like expanding trade with major partners including China, Japan, India, Mexico and the U.S. The council wants fewer regulatory hurdles in sectors like agriculture and food. It wants the government to invest in a “FutureSkills Lab” that would develop a new approach to skills training. (Fair enough, but we don’t have enough skills training options as it is, so let’s have more of what exists now for more immediate benefit.)
The council wants the government to come up with ways to increase labour-force participation from lower-income earners, indigenous people, women with kids and older people. Hence the push to raise the age of retirement eligibility. Here’s where we part company. On child care: Yes, improvements are needed to improve equitable and affordable access. But a fullblown national program? First, the government campaigned against an NDP platform that featured that as a central plank. How would it explain reversing that? A national program at this time is too ambitious. Modest steps are more affordable and pragmatic.
And raising the age at which Canadians qualify for retirement benefits? That’s a big no. The Conservatives did exactly that, and in a high-handed manner without consultation. Trudeau campaigned on rolling back that change. It’s not on for the government to turn its back on another election pledge.
Where would that leave young workers, who already suffer with a much higher unemployment rate than older workers, and who also labour in more precarious jobs, without benefits, with lower pay, no paid vacations and general instability?
That’s where the government should focus its investment and efforts, not in trying to blackmail more older workers to keep working beyond age 65 just to qualify for already inadequate retirement benefits. That’s not on.