Manitoba agrees to sign Canada Pension Plan reform deal

The Manitoba government says it will sign on to a plan to revamp the Canada Pension Plan after all, provided that Ottawa remains open to some of the province's own proposals for improving it.

Agreement signed in exchange for pledge that Ottawa explores province's ideas for CPP

Premier Brian Pallister announced on Thursday that Manitoba has reached an agreement with the federal government to continue researching and discussing several proposals the province has put forward for CPP reform. (CBC)

The Manitoba government says it will sign on to a plan to revamp the Canada Pension Plan after all, provided that Ottawa remains open to some of the province's own proposals for improving it.

The province had held out of signing on to the CPP deal, which already has the approval of all other provinces except Quebec.

On Thursday afternoon, Premier Brian Pallister announced that Manitoba has reached an agreement with the federal government to continue researching and discussing several proposals the province has put forward for CPP reform.

Based on Ottawa's assurances of additional research and analysis, Pallister said his government agreed to sign the agreement in principle that was signed in June.

In a news release, Pallister said he was pleased with the "federal government's openness" to the province's concerns about the CPP plan and the support received from other jurisdictions. 

"Our government proposed additional items for consideration by finance ministers which would make CPP not just bigger, but better as well," he added.

On June 20, all of Canada's provincial finance ministers — with the exception of Manitoba and Quebec — agreed to increasing the CPP benefit over time, by about one-third once the changes are fully phased in. The provinces were asked to finalize their agreements with the federal government by July 15.

At the time, Manitoba abstained from voting for the deal. Pallister said his government was only two months old and he wanted more time to study the proposals. He also said he was concerned that the CPP agreement did not address the need for people to manage their own retirement savings.

Speaking to CBC's Power & Politics on Monday, Pallister said while it was "indisputable" the CPP deal would help 30- to 40-year-olds down the road, now was the time to ensure the plan is expanded in other key areas.

For example, he wants to see changes to the CPP's death benefit — a one-time payment of up to $2,500 that is paid to the estate of a deceased CPP contributor.

The province says some of its proposals will be included on the agenda of the next meeting of finance ministers and will form part of the next CPP triennial review, including:

  • Eliminating the claw-back of guaranteed income supplement payments for widowed seniors' CPP survivor benefits.
  • Indexing the CPP death benefit.
  • A comprehensive review of CPP survivor and disability benefits.

Pallister said his finance minister, Cameron Friesen, spent "recent days" discussing the province's CPP proposals with his counterparts across the country and he has received "many favourable responses."

"Reaching consensus on the provision of affordable enhancements to CPP may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Friesen said in the government's news release.

"Several other jurisdictions have indicated their willingness to both discuss and support these measures. Their input on Manitoba's proposals will be an important part of the continued discussion around the modernization of the CPP."

The opposition New Democrats criticized Friesen in June for not signing on to the CPP reform agreement, with finance critic James Allum proclaiming that the minister "embarrassed us on the national stage."

In a statement, interim NDP Leader Flor Marcelino said she's relieved the Tory government is finally signing on to the CPP reform deal.

"As longtime supporters of the CPP, we're disappointed that it took Brian Pallister so long to join the national consensus, but we urge him to remain at the table for regularly scheduled reviews of CPP," she wrote.

"We stand with working families to ensure they have a national CPP plan that works for them."

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