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‘CPP premiums, payouts won’t change’

Talks about boosting Canada pension benefits for seniors through higher premiums has been put off for a while, and most people seem to be OK with that, says the local MP.

I think I’ve got the occasional e-mail from people. It’s not front and centre about what they’re concerned about at the moment,” says Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission MP Randy Kamp.

Talks between the provinces and federal government broke off Monday with no agreement on whether to increase premiums in order to boost payouts from the annual Canada Pension Plan. The maximum annual income under CPP is about $12,000.

Employers and employees each pay half of the premiums.

Kamp said many details are unclear, about when or if any changes would take place.

“As far as I can tell, [there wasn’t] consensus about how to move forward on this.”

The federal government didn’t say this wasn’t a good time to increase payroll taxes through higher premiums because the economy was still fragile. B.C., Saskatchewan and New Brunswick ministers felt the same way, he added.

Asked if he thought pension increases should be increased at some point, Kamp said CPP is only one source of income for seniors. There is also Old Age Security, registered pension plans, tax free savings accounts and company pension plans. Some people also invest real estate as part of their retirement plans, he added.

“CPP is only a part of what we do.”

He said Finance Minister Jim Flaherty mentioned only part of the senior population would be hurting financially and instead maybe that sector could be targeted.

“I think the debate needs to continue … when it’s clear our economy is more robust.

“Maybe an enhancement of the CPP could be part of that solution. The time isn’t right for that now.”

Kamp said he may hear more from voters now that it’s been discussed.

“I certainly welcome hearing what people are saying about this.”

Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge MLA Doug Bing said as the population ages, more people will be affected.

“I think it’s going to be very difficult for a lot of people who haven’t had the opportunity to save and plan ahead, to find retirement and be confronted with a situation where they don’t have very much money to live on. Yeah, it’s going to be an issue at some point.”

But he recognized higher premiums could cause companies to cut back.

Instead, premium increases could be phased out over several years, to allow companies time to adjust and “to give people a reasonable income when they retire.”

He said if Ontario wanted to start its own provincial pension, it should do that. That province announced its intentions to do that Monday.

Maple Ridge Coun. Cheryl Ashlie, who’s with the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows-Katzie Seniors Network, said whatever is planned must be sustainable.

“Are we funding it appropriately? Is what people are depending on in 25 years going to be there for them?

“It is imperative that we have that right, that we are funding it appropriately and that we understand the demands on it that are going to be made and that the government is responding to it.

“Just because people aren’t phoning right now doesn’t mean it’s not going to be something that’s going to be very impactful to people. They want it done right.”

All levels of government have to ensure their programs are properly funded, she added.

According to B.C. NDP finance critic Mike Farnworth, the B.C. government is supporting the federal Conservatives “in its neglect of the CPP.

“Canada Pension Plan is still the best way for Canadians to save for retirement. It is well managed, and has a proven record of reasonable returns and low administrative costs,” he said in a news release.

“Just a few years ago, the Liberal government was pressing for CPP enhancement. Now, they have flip-flopped to support the federal government’s position.”

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