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Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper addresses a session at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, January 26, 2012. (CHRISTIAN HARTMANN/REUTERS/CHRISTIAN HARTMANN/REUTERS)
Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper addresses a session at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, January 26, 2012. (CHRISTIAN HARTMANN/REUTERS/CHRISTIAN HARTMANN/REUTERS)

Tories using MP pension 'diversion' to avoid tackling retirement: NDP Add to ...

The Harper government’s musings about reforming the MPs’ gold-plated pensions are simply a smokescreen to avoid dealing with retirement security for all Canadians, charge the NDP.

This, while the Canadian Taxpayers Federation is urging the Conservatives to make MP pension reform its priority – otherwise it has no credibility to tackle changes to other pension programs, such as Old Age Security.

“We believe the government is going to act on MP pensions in this budget,” says the CTF’s Federal Director, Gregory Thomas, referring to the upcoming spring budget. “We think the government is working on a big set of pension reforms, including public service pensions, Old Age Security, and the pooled registered pension plan legislation. And they need to take an axe to the MP pension plan to demonstrate that they’re really serious this time.”

Pensions continue to be the hot issue on Parliament Hill this week, given Stephen Harper’s speech in Davos, Switzerland, where he first suggested reforming OAS.

In addition, the Prime Minister and Treasury Board President Tony Clement have also hinted that MP pensions may be part of the of the government’s efforts to cut between $4-billion and $8-billion from spending – the results of which will be revealed in the budget.

To add more fuel to the fire, Government House leader Peter Van Loan said earlier this week that government MPs sitting on the Board of Internal economy, which oversees management and spending of the House, have asked that the board “also do its fair share as part of the deficit reduction action plan.”

“We don’t think it’s right that we would be asking all of government and all Canadians to accept that we make savings across the board if we don’t do that ourselves,” he said, adding the government is looking for “real action” from the board.

All of these musings have the CTF encouraged that the MP pension scheme, in which taxpayers contribute $23 for every $1 from the politician, will be reformed.

The NDP, however, isn’t buying any of this.

“I think it’s classic to put out a diversion like that with actually no proposals,” Anne McGrath, chief of staff to NDP Interim leader Nycole Turmel, told The Globe. She said the NDP wants the government – if it’s serious – to create an arms length, independent commission to deal with the issue.

“It would be fair, it would be just, it would happen quickly,” she says. “But in the meantime the fact is that so many Canadians don’t even have a pension plan and even Canadians that have a pension plan are worried if it’s going to be there for them.”

Mr. Thomas, meanwhile, is critical of the NDP’s idea of a commission, saying this is a “standard technique of moving the issue off the public agenda.”

“If you get the correct mix of insiders beholden to the government and superannuated hacks, they sometimes even recommend a fatter package for the politicians,” he says.

Paul Dewar’s place for women

Women will be in at least half of the cabinet posts in Paul Dewar’s NDP government – just one of the leadership candidate’s promises in a major policy paper – A Woman’s Place – obtained by The Globe.

As part of trying to strive for democratic equality, Mr. Dewar, an Ottawa MP, vows that if he wins the leadership and goes on to form government, he would tie public financing to the number of women candidates parties attract, in an effort to encourage more women to run for election. He also wants to establish Status of Women as a full government department.

According to a release provided to The Globe, his government would also try to support women in the workforce, in the home and through health and security measures by implementing a national child care program, providing a federal tax credit for fertility treatments and creating an independent investment fund to provide start-up capital for women entrepreneurs.

In addition, his government would also enforce the Canada Health Act “to access to safe, legal, and free abortion on demand in every province in Canada” and launch an national inquiry into “missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada”, according to the Dewar action plan.

“My mother taught me that you shouldn’t be afraid of power, but as a feminist she believed that power should be shared and used wisely to support and strengthen equality,” Mr. Dewar says.

He is referring to his late mother, Marion Dewar, who not only served as Ottawa’s Mayor but also, briefly, as an MP. She was a force for so many years in the nation’s capital, supporting women, young people and the disadvantaged.

Mr. Dewar worked on his program with NDP MP Irene Mathyssen, who is chair of the Status of Women committee.

Follow on Twitter: @janetaber1

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