Sheridan steps back on CPP plan

Letters to the Editor (The Guardian)
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Finance minister decides best option remains under federal umbrella after all

The province made a wise decision to seek Canada Pension Plan enhancements under the federal umbrella instead of pursuing a risky option with Ontario and Manitoba for a separate, supplemental provincial scheme.

Finance Minister Wes Sheridan is a longtime supporter of a richer CPP because he says not enough Islanders are saving sufficient funds for retirement. Former federal finance minister Jim Flaherty started to warm towards the idea but changed his mind before stepping down in March. That reversal likely came on the orders of his boss, because enhancing CPP seems like a payroll tax, and those optics would never do with a federal election next year.

In frustration, Ontario announced it would go it alone and found allies in Manitoba and Mr. Sheridan. Premier Kathleen Wynne seems determined to carry on, especially after winning a surprising majority government in the early June provincial election, and viewing this as a mandate from the voters to proceed with a supplemental plan.

Perhaps Mr. Sheridan has found a more willing ear with new federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver, or at least a minister willing to explore some options. Or he realized a separate provincial plan would involve just too much time and money for P.E.I. His idea was good in principle and he can take satisfaction that he helped push forward the need of better pensions.

Now our finance minister says he will try to convince Ottawa to increase premiums on the existing CPP.

His original plan was perhaps too rich — it scared businesses and it made low- to middle-income Islanders nervous as well. Mr. Sheridan is fearful that only a truly national supplemental plan will work. If Ontario and Manitoba do go alone, it could scuttle any hopes for a universal CPP option.

Does that mean Mr. Sheridan is going to try and convince the premiers of Ontario and Manitoba to work with Mr. Oliver on some sort of compromise? It could be seen as a flip-flop or perhaps it’s more accurate to say, he is being pragmatic on what might actually be achieved instead of butting heads with Ottawa.

CPP was on the agenda of Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, who was in Charlottetown last week where he lobbied P.E.I. not to join Ontario’s plan. Kelly argued that any plan to boost retirement savings would ultimately hurt workers.

Maybe Mr. Sheridan could raise the personal income tax exemption on Islanders and allow them to divert any savings into a supplemental pension plan.

If an enhanced CPP plan is to fly, public consultations are needed to let Mr. Sheridan feel the provincial pulse. Then we would have no one to blame but ourselves.


Waterfront plan long overdue

Why does it take a major hurricane-force storm every 10 years or so to direct attention on the need for a long-term plan to protect the Charlottetown waterfront? Hurricane Juan did a lot of damage in September 2003 and the remnants of Arthur 10 days ago packed a surprisingly powerful punch, sinking or severely damaging five vessels.

The Charlottetown Area Development Corporation is trying to come up with options to protect the waterfront. Boats at the yacht club seem especially vulnerable to southwesterly gales.

Breakwater enhancements seem the most logical first step but it should be stressed this is not a plan to protect the yachts of the elite or the condos of the wealthy, but to help all residents, wharves and merchants that use the waterfront and bring business and money to the city and province.

Organizations: Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Charlottetown Area Development

Geographic location: Ontario, Manitoba, Charlottetown Ottawa

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