Is Jack Layton Dreaming in Technicolour ?
New Democratic Leader's Jack Layton's Election Platform included as the first priority to "Strengthen Pensions and Income Security. The newly elected Official Opposition Leader has called for unions, labour and provinces to to support his effort to pressure the Harper government to strengthen pensions.
Addressing the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) in Vancouver, Layton said that Prime Minister Harper is practically alone in address the looming pension crisis. The NDP election platform on pensions says the following:
We will work with the provinces to bring about increases to your Canada/Quebec Pension Plan benefit, with the eventual goal to double the benefits you receive;
We will work with the provinces to build-in the flexibility for you and your employer to make voluntary contributions to your individual public pension account;
We will amend federal bankruptcy legislation to move pensioners and long-term disability recipients to the front of the line of creditors when their employers enter court protection or declare bankruptcy;
We will increase the annual Guaranteed Income Supplement to a sufficient level in the first budget to lift every senior in Canada out of poverty immediately.
While the idea may be a popular one with Canadians, it doesn't address any of the funding. Canada has forcasted a deficit of $55 Billion, recently adjusted to $28 Billion, mostly created due to stimulus programs. It also does not take into account the increasing number of baby boomers, who will become eligible for both the Canada Pension Plan (similar to Social Security in the US) and Old Age Security.
While Europeans and others struggle with pension reform by increasing both contributions and the elegibility age, Jack Layton wants to eventually double these pensions. His plan to increase the Guaranteed Income Supplement also comes with a $700 Million annual bill.
In his address to the CLC Layton said:
"A majority of the provincial governments have recognized the brewing storm. And the overwhelming consensus amongst these provinces is that the most pragmatic, responsible response is to strengthen the guaranteed public pensions-the Canada Pension Plan and Quebec Pension Plan. All they are waiting for is a federal government that's ready to act."
Layton said he is ready to work with all provincial leaders, regardless of party and that by working together real pressure would be put on the Harper government to act.
The New Democratic Party was the third party in the last minority Parliament with 36 seats. During the May 2nd election it gained 56 seats in Quebec, mostly at the expense of the Block Quebecois. Layton is now under pressure to retain and build on his new found popularity, not only in Quebec , but also in the remainder of Canada.
The Conservative Party under Prime Minister Harper, which governed with a minority for five years, has finally elected a Majority Parliament and will no doubt move forward with its agenda. This includes the budget introduced in the previous Parliament.
Is he dreaming in technicolour or is this a first step to build more support across Canada?