Politics

B.C. delays signing on to CPP expansion plan

The expanded Canada Pension Plan is still on track for ratification even though British Columbia won't meet today's deadline to formally sign on to the agreement.

Province wants to hold consultations before ratifying amendments to pension plan

Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau says the CPP deal he negotiated with provinces last month in Vancouver is still on track, even though British Columbia says it needs more time. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

The expanded Canada Pension Plan is still on track for ratification even though British Columbia won't meet today's deadline to formally sign on to the agreement.

"While all other signatories will meet this target, the province of British Columbia has indicated it needs more time to do so," federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau said in a statement.

"The process remains on track for the government to table federal legislation in the fall as planned."

Federal officials don't see the B.C. delay as a threat to the deal and say it shouldn't impact the larger implementation of the changes. The B.C. Finance Department issued a statement saying it still supports the revamp of the pension plan.

"The proposed CPP enhancement is meant to balance the needs of business owners with those of employees. British Columbia is committed to engaging with stakeholders in advance of ratifying the agreement in principle," the department said in the statement.

Could ratify by August

The province plans to go through a public education and engagement process — particularly with small businesses — before moving ahead with ratification of the CPP enhancements.

It's something the B.C. government promised and with the province set to hold an election in 2017, it's not a promise it wants to break.

A senior B.C. official told CBC News the process should take about a month and the province could be ready to ratify the agreement in August.

Morneau brokered the deal with the provinces on an expanded CPP last month in Vancouver. Under the proposed plan, increases in employee and employer contributions would be phased in over five years starting in 2019 to fund an increase in retirement benefits.

Morneau praises B.C. counterpart

In his statement today, Morneau was careful to single out B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong for praise in helping get the deal done.

"Minister de Jong of British Columbia played an important role throughout these negotiations and has reaffirmed his support of the agreement in principle signed in Vancouver," Morneau said in his statement.

Eight other provinces are expected to sign on to the deal today. Quebec, which runs its own pension plan and is not a signatory to the CPP, is still doing its own analysis about how to match the expansion.

Conservatives want deal delayed

Conservative finance critic Lisa Raitt said the federal government should follow British Columbia's lead and slow the push to expand CPP. 

"Maybe the feds should take a breath as well and do some consultations," Raitt said. 

Raitt said the extra premiums required to expand the CPP will hurt small business in particular — especially when you factor in recent minimum wage increases in a number of provinces.

"How many times can you go back to the same pool of money in a small company before it has an effect?"

Raitt believes Morneau is rushing to finalize the deal to accommodate Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, whose government had threatened to break ranks and create its own pension plan if CPP was not enriched.

"That seems to be a poor basis on which to form public policy for the rest of the country," she said. "So what if Kathleen Wynne has to wait a bit?"

About the Author

David Cochrane is a senior reporter in CBC's Parliamentary bureau. He previously wrote for CBC Newfoundland and Labrador.

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