NDP urges Liberals to slow down Alward's pension reforms

The New Brunswick NDP is challenging the Opposition Liberals to slow down the Alward government's pension reforms.

Dominic Cardy says dragging out debate could allow time for opposition to bill grow

The New Brunswick NDP is challenging the Opposition Liberals to slow down the Alward government's pension reforms.

NDP leader Dominic Cardy says the Liberals should use parliamentary procedure to bog down debate on the move to a shared-risk plan.

The NDP has no seats in the legislature, so it's powerless to challenge the pension reform legislation that's expected in the upcoming session. But with 13 MLAs, the Liberals do have the means to slow it down, said Cardy.

"That can give more time for Conservatives who might be having second thoughts to come on board, and perhaps we can get some of these changes made that need to happen to make sure that our pensions are properly protected," he said.

Liberal Leader Brian Gallant would not commit to bogging down the pension reforms by using parliamentary manoeuvres.

"We're going to be voting against the reforms. That's one of the ways we have to express our discontent with the changes," Gallant said.

Still, with an overwhelming Progressive Conservative majority in the legislature with 41 seats, a Liberal vote against the bill won't be enough to stop the changes.

Softened stance for retirees

Earlier this week, Finance Minister Blaine Higgs said his government is softening its stance on pension reforms for retired civil servants.

A letter was to be sent to retirees on Monday, promising cost of living increases will continue and benefits will never be lower than current amounts.

Under the current plan, retired civil servants are sheltered from any risk of market downturns by the provincial government with guaranteed cost-of-living increases.

Under the reforms, announced by Premier David Alward in May 2012, the risk would be shared by both sides.

The proposed model also includes increased contribution levels and higher age of retirement phased in slowly.

Retirees had argued it was not fair to change their benefits retroactively.

A pension coalition had formed to oppose the proposed changes. The group also hired a lawyer from Toronto to take the government to court, if necessary.

Higgs had previously said it would be "immoral" for the provincial government not to address a pension plan that is unsustainable if left unchanged.

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