Retirement review to look at 'everything,' Flaherty says

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is confirming the Harper government's interest in reforming retirement income programs, but says it's a "longer-term project" that won't be part of the budget this spring.

Finance minister says this spring's budget will not include any short-term changes to Old Age Security

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has confirmed the Harper government's interest in reforming retirement income programs, but he says it's a "longer-term project" that won't be part of the budget this spring.

Flaherty told Power & Politics host Evan Solomon that what's on the table is "a review of retirement income overall."

"We need to look at all the issues relating to retirement income, not for this year's budget procedures so we can have some kind of savings this year. This is a longer-term project that we can address in the present."

With the baby boom bulge in the population now entering retirement, the cost of the government's Old Age Security payments is estimated to triple to about $108 billion by 2030. That still represents only 3.1 per cent of anticipated size of the economy in that year, however.

"We need to review everything, look at it all, and make sure that for the younger generations, as they grow older, those social programs will be there for them and that they can rest assured that they're sustainable," Flaherty said.

However, Flaherty said there wouldn't be anything in this year's budget, expected in March, that would affect anyone receiving any individual government benefits.

"Any suggestion to the contrary is just flat wrong," Flaherty told Solomon.

Flaherty said this year's budget will consider long-term sustainability and may outline future steps or options to ensure programs are sustainable.

"This is just good government. This is looking down the road," Flaherty said, adding that issues around the long-term viability of retirement programs "are not going to be solved in one budget."

Flaherty would not say whether his department is considering raising the age of eligibility from 65 to 67.

On Tuesday, the government moved to limit debate on a proposed bill to create pooled registered pension plans for people who are self-employed or not covered by a workplace pension.

Finance minister in Israel

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, left, poses for an official photo with (left to right) Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel's finance minister, Yuval Steinitz, during a meeting in Jerusalem Sunday. (Moshe Milner/AP Photo/Israeli Government Press Office)

Flaherty spoke to the CBC News Network from Israel, where he was meeting with representatives from Israel's high-tech sector, learning about Israeli efforts to attract new business start-ups and boost innovation and productivity.

Flaherty and his officials have been holding pre-budget consultations for months as the government looks for ways to rein in spending and reduce the federal deficit.

Flaherty told Solomon that he is not concerned about Canada's weaker economic performance in recent months, suggesting he believes the Canadian economy will continue to grow modestly in 2012.

Ongoing concerns over the economic situation in Europe, however, are postponing the date of this year's federal budget.

"We're watching Europe. We want to make sure we do not have any fiscal crisis or banking crisis coming out of Europe that might affect the American market or our market," Flaherty explained.

With files from The Canadian Press