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NDP Leader Jack Layton speaks to suporters at a campaign rally in Toronto on April 4, 2011. (Paul Chiasson/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
NDP Leader Jack Layton speaks to suporters at a campaign rally in Toronto on April 4, 2011. (Paul Chiasson/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Politics

Layton promises to double public-pension payouts Add to ...

The benefits offered by Canada's government pension plan are inadequate to keep people living in comfort in their old age and must be increased, Jack Layton says.

It's not a new call for the NDP Leader who has been pushing the pension issue for two years. But it is one he hopes will appeal to Canadians who are approaching retirement, or who have already left the workforce, without a company plan or significant savings.

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"We don't really have an adequate system of retirement security in the country," the NDP Leader said Monday morning during a campaign stop at a dance club in the Toronto riding of Davenport.

Conservative Leader "Stephen Harper's response is to ask Canadians to double down on the private plans that all too often have filed them in the past. It's simply not good enough," he said.

Since 2009, Mr. Layton has been urging the Conservative government to double CPP and QPP payouts from 25 per cent to 50 per cent of pre-retirement income, increasing the monthly benefit to a maximum of $1,817 from $908.

The plan would be phased in over seven years. Employers would initially pay nine cents more per worker per hour, an amount that would increase by an additional nine cents per year.

A worker who makes the workers earning the average industrial wage of $47,000 per year and currently contributed approximately $185 per month to CPP would see that contribution rise to $292 per month over seven years.

But Mr. Layton said it is a savings plan, not a tax. "It's like putting money in your RRSP," he said.

The New Democrats are also reaching out to workers who have lost their company pension plans when their employers have gone bankrupt. Pensioners and workers on long-term disability would be the first creditors to collect when a company goes under, according to the NDP proposal.

And, like the Liberals, the New Democrats would increase to the Guaranteed Income Supplement for low-income seniors - a measure that would cost the federal treasury about $700-million a year.

Mr. Layton said many Canadians assume that they will get the GIS automatically when they turn 65, not realizing they must apply for it. The NDP would give up to three years of the benefits retroactively to seniors who qualified for the benefits but did not ask for them from the outset - an increase from the current 11 months.

The Liberals are proposing a voluntary type of top up to Canada Pension Plan contributions, allowing Canadians to save an extra 5 to 10 per cent of their pay in a retirement fund backed by CPP.

The Conservatives last year announced a voluntary pooled pension plan aimed at helping small businesses and the self employed.

Unions and other critics have blasted the proposal saying Canadians can't afford to make more voluntary contributions.

It is difficult for politicians to grab the attention of Canadians - and the media - when they are saying things they have said before. Mr. Layton has not announced new policy on this campaign as much as he has reiterated ideas that his party has been espousing for years.

Mr. Layton said he thinks voters will appreciate his consistency.

"I don't think Canadians appreciate politicians jumping around from position and issue to issue," he said. "The second thing they like to see is some delivery on the promises We've seen other parties promise initiatives around retirement security for years and than they don't some through."

This was Mr. Layton's second trip to Toronto in this campaign.

The riding of Davenport is currently held by Liberal Mario Silva. The NDP is running Andrew Cash, a composer and singer who has released 12 albums and has been nominated for a Juno.

Mr. Layton needs to put space between his policies and those of the Liberals, with which they largely agree. When pressed on Sunday to comment on the new Liberal platform, NDP officials could not find much to criticize because of the significant overlap with their own ideas.

But, on the CPP proposals, there is light between the two parties. "I think the key thing is to see if we could possibly distinguish the Liberal position on the CPP from the Conservative position," said Mr. Layton. "It seems to be identical."

Editor's note: Because of incorrect information supplied to the Globe and Mail, an earlier version of this article said workers earning the average industrial wage of $47,000 per year and currently contributing about $185 per month to CPP would see that contribution rise to $364 per month over seven years. In fact, the contribution would rise to $292. This version has been corrected.

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