Manitoba

NDP says Manitoba finance minister 'a deer in the headlights' on CPP reform

Manitoba's opposition NDP said Tuesday Finance Minister Cameron Friesen's refusal to sign on to CPP reforms that are slated to kick in in three years puts Manitoba to shame.

Federal finance minister says decision came too soon for Manitoba's new government

NDP says Manitoba finance minister 'a deer in the headlights' on CPP reform

6 years ago
Duration 2:25
Manitoba's opposition NDP said Tuesday Finance Minister Cameron Friesen's refusal to sign on to CPP reforms that are slated to kick in in three years puts Manitoba to shame.

Manitoba's opposition NDP said Tuesday Finance Minister Cameron Friesen's refusal to sign on to CPP reforms that are slated to kick in in three years puts Manitoba to shame.

"He embarrassed us on the national stage," Allum said. "He had a chance to join a national consensus ... in order to stand with working families, and instead he chose to stand with big business and their interests. And that's a grave disappointment and a real disservice to Manitobans."

Most of Canada's finance ministers reached an agreement in principle Monday to revamp the Canada Pension Plan, although Quebec and Manitoba did not. 

Quebec has its own pension scheme.

Manitoba Finance Minister Cameron Friesen came out of a tough round in question period where the opposition demanded to know why Manitoba was a holdout.

PC Finance Minister Cameron Friesen is expected to talk about the province's stance on CPP Tuesday afternoon. (CBC News)
"Other jurisdictions, other finance ministers at least had the benefit of positions that they could finesse in the context of that meeting. I would suggest to you if you'd been the government for less than two-and-a-half months you have less ability to adjust," Friesen told reporters.

Friesen and Premier Brian Pallister both suggested they may have changes they would offer before the CPP deal is signed later this year. But the finance minister wasn't sharing those ideas today. He said the cabinet needed to be brought up to speed first.

"It would be improper to share outside that room before I have a chance to convey with colleagues where we are at, what we are proposing, what we think could strengthen this," Friesen said.

'No one is any better off'

Pallister spoke at length to reporters about Manitoba's choice to "abstain" from the agreement. He didn't say much about being a rookie government and new to the topic but he did share his views on how CPP fits into retirement savings.

"I mean this sincerely. There are many studies that show when compulsory savings plans are introduced and when they are augmented that the result is people save less in optional [programs] and no one is any better off," Pallister said

Pallister pointed out he was a financial planner for many years and said this was a good time to give people some financial education.

"Canadians are saving less towards their own retirement. The CPP will not solve that problem. And I want Canadians to make sure they understand that. And this is our opportunity right here to elevate the financial literacy of Canadians," he said.

"We did not attend those meetings on the assumption that we would come out of those meetings with an iron-clad agreement. So we are working on negotiating the best possible deal for the people of Manitoba and frankly for the people of Canada," Pallister said.

Premier Pallister says CPP negotiations a chance to 'improve Canadians financial literacy.' (Sean Kavanagh CBC News)
Pallister and Friesen said they may share some of their ideas on how to change the scheme in the next few days.

The new deal would go into effect in 2019, costing an average Canadian worker earning about $55,000 an additional $7 a month. That would increase to $34 a month by 2023.

Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau said yesterday in Vancouver it was too soon for Manitoba to sign on to the new plan.

"Manitoba is a brand-new government. They've been in power for four weeks, so they were a productive voice around the table, a voice of continued interest in working together, but of course this comes pretty fast and hard for them," Morneau told reporters.

Allum doesn't buy the idea that the new PC government didn't have the time to study the issue before the federal-provincial meeting.

"Let's be honest, this is an issue that's been around for quite some time. When we were in government, we were leaders on this issue. An analysis has been there. The research has been there. Mr. Friesen was finance critic prior to being finance minister. We know he would have been well-briefed going into the meeting. We know he would have known the terms of what the agreement would be, and instead found himself like a deer caught in the headlights," Allum told reporters.

(CBC)

Decision puts economy 'ahead of political agendas, union pressure'

At least one business organization, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, has applauded the PC government's stand.

"We were pleased to see that at least one government was willing to put the Canadian economy, workers and small businesses ahead of political agendas and union pressure," said Marilyn Braun-Pollon, CFIB vice-president for the Prairies and agri-business.

In a release, the CFIB said many businesses are overwhelming opposed to hiking CPP contributions.

"Eight in 10 Manitoban small business owners oppose mandatory CPP increases. Two-thirds say CPP hikes will increase pressure to freeze or cut salaries, and 34 per cent say they will have to cut jobs," according to the CFIB.

Federal Finance Minister Morneau said Manitoba continues to be part of the process, despite not signing on to the agreement.

(CBC)

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