Presented by Barbara Byers on Saturday, 20 October 2012
Sisters and Brothers, I am pleased to bring you greetings on behalf of the 3.3 million workers who are members of the Canadian Labour Congress.
I am always glad to be back to visit Newfoundland and Labrador and reconnect with your dynamic leader Lorraine Michael and your hard working NDP MHA caucus and NDP MPs.
Newfoundland is a place where you are always among friends, no matter where you come from.
That’s definitely not always the case in Ottawa!
The only thing colder than the damp, cold weather in our nation’s capital is Stephen Harper’s smile and his heart!
But one thing is very clear - NDP leader Thomas Mulcair and his caucus are turning up the heat on the Conservatives!
And rightly so – the Harper government has been arrogant since the moment it was elected in 2006 and once it secured a majority in Parliament last year.
From attacks on the democratic rights of workers to collective bargaining to encouraging the takeover of key natural resource companies like Nexen by a Chinese state-owned company, to cutting needed public services, to intimidation tactics against unions, scientists and environmentalists – this is a government committed to abusing democracy and abusing its power!
So I say, thank goodness there is a strong, dedicated and progressive NDP caucus in Ottawa under Tom Mulcair’s leadership to hold them to account!
Today I’ve been asked to talk to you about a subject that is important to both myself and the NDP.
And to do it in TED Talk style.
That kind of scared me a little – first because I didn’t know what a TED Talk actually is.
And even more scared when I discovered that Steve Jobs, Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Jane Goodall and Jane Fonda have all given TED Talks.
But once I thought about it, I was excited – because my topic was easy to choose: Retirement security.
Retirement security is one of the most important social policy questions of our time.
It affects every person in our country, sooner or later.
But most Canadians – sadly – don’t have retirement security.
Both the Canadian Labour Congress and the New Democratic Party are deeply committed to make improvements that ensure every senior can retire with dignity and security.
It is our collective responsibility to win retirement security for future generations, just as previous generations fought for our Canada pension Plan, for our Medicare, for our employment insurance and for our right to join a union.
The CLC has proposed positive, affordable, do-able changes to the Canada Pension Plan that would achieve the goal of retirement security for all – and in a very short period of time.
And our goal of expanding the Canada Pension Plan has been applauded by the Canadian Association of Retired Persons, by the Canadian Federation of Students and by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
An expanded CPP is also supported by most provincial governments – especially the NDP governments of Darrell Dexter in Nova Scotia and of Greg Selinger in Manitoba.
And of course, an expanded CPP is supported by Thomas Mulcair and the federal NDP.
So what’s the problem?
You guessed it - Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his strongest supporters – the big banks and finance companies who profit from private, individual, retirement plans.
But thanks to Mr. Harper, we have a very simple choice to make on retirement security – a stark choice.
Canada either moves forward to a more progressive and enhanced CPP – or we go backwards.
Mr. Harper’s option is clear; work an extra two years – until you are 67– to collect Old Age Security.
Or perhaps even work until you just drop dead in your job!
And Mr. Harper also wants us to put all our faith into private sector solutions.
That means investing our hard-earned money into Registered Retirement Savings Plans and into his new Pooled Registered Pension Plans.
In other words, we are expected to put our retirement security in the hands of in the stock market…. and the big banks. Anyone here remember 2008? Anyone have RRSPs that crashed? One of my RRSPs lost 40% between July and December and it is still not back to the level it was in July 2008!
And we are expected to put our future in the hands of mutual fund companies that have the dubious distinction of charging some of the highest management fees in the world.
That’s great business for banks, but very risky business for the rest of us.
We've done the math on investment management fees.
After Convention I want you to go to the CLC website and search for "retirement security, management fees". You will find a very interesting exercise there that shows you what management fees mean for your investments and therefore your retirement security.
On the website you will have the chance to see what would happen if you had $10,000 and the cost to you for investment fees at various levels.
Many management fees are around 2.5%. That doesn’t sound too high does it? Well, watch this ....
Let’s take your $10,000 and invest it in a mutual fund that has a 2.5% management fee. And let’s say you invested at age 20 and you leave it there for 45 years. And during that 45 years you receive on average a 5% return compounded annually; some years good and some years not so good, but on average 5%.
Well, after the first year your $10,000 will have grown to $10,237.50. Not bad; you made $237.50. However, your fund manager will have made $262.50; more than your money made for you.
And you can follow your investment every year to see how much money your money is making for you and how much money your investment manager is making.
Guess what your $10,000 will provide for you at the end of 45 years? Your investment will have grown to $29,493.18.
However, your investment manager will have made $60,356.90 from your money!
Now does that sound like a good deal for you?
By the way, you can do a comparison with an investment management rate of 0.5% like the Canada Pension Plan has. At the end of that first year your $10,000 will have grown to $10,447.50 and your investment manager will have made $52.50.
And at the end of 45 years your $10,000 will have grown to $72,066.60 for you and $17,783.48 for your investment manager.
Now do you really want Harper’s plan of a better deal for banks with RRSPs and PRPPs or do you want a better deal for you and your retirement security?
If you take $10,000 today and invest it in a mutual fund that has a 2.5 per cent annual management fee and your investment returns 5% a year, after 45 years you will have turned over almost $70,000 to the banks - and your investment would have grown to just $30,000!
Fortunately, the Canadian Labour Congress has given our country another option – and a much better strategy that will work for everyone.
Here’s what we say:
Improve the Canada Pension Plan over the next few years to double the retirement benefits for all Canadians.
Make the CPP work the way it should – so that no Canadian lives in fear – fear of what should be their golden years.
But Mr. Harper would have you believe the choice is either his way….or no way.
That’s the choice between the wrong way …..and the correct way – our way.
Consider this – in 2009, 9.6 million employees, that’s 61.5 percent of all paid workers in Canada, had no workplace pension plan coverage at all.
If you factor in the self-employed, there were 12.4 million Canadians in the labour force with no pension plan coverage.
That helps explain why we currently have 1.6 million seniors living in poverty or on the edge of poverty.
Isn’t that disgusting?
But the Conservatives have only offered yet another private sector solution to increase retirement income – their Pooled Registered Pension Plans or PRPPs.
PRPPs are just a variation of the failed concept of Registered Retirement Savings Plans, which less than one-third of Canadians participate in.
Meanwhile, increasing the Old Age Security threshold age to 67 is an economic disaster in the making for the provinces and territories.
The federal government will download the cost of supporting seniors – who will need an additional 2 years of provincial social assistance – before qualifying for OAS at the age of 67.
This will cost the provinces an estimated half a billion dollars each year.
Briefly, the Canadian Labour Congress plan is the positive alternative.
And Canadians see it as a great idea.
An Environics poll found that 76 per cent of Canadians support increasing CPP benefits, while an Ipsos-Reid poll earlier this year showed 74 per cent of Canadians oppose raising the OAS eligibility age to 67.
The reasons to expand the CPP are obvious.
Phasing in a small premium increase over 7 years would result in a doubling of maximum benefits for tomorrow's seniors.
It would raise the basic pension floor for young people entering the workforce today from a poverty level of $12,000 a year to a far more liveable $24,000 when they retire.
What’s more, the Canada Pension Plan is universal, it’s portable – it goes with you, not your job – and it covers 93% of workers.
The CPP is also safe, secure, indexed to inflation and its management costs are lower than the exorbitant rates charged byprivate financial institutions.
It's an affordable way to save for a basic pension - and it doesn't syphon off your hard earned money into the pockets of the financial industry in the form of management fees.
It not only meets the needs of workers who don’t have a pension plan or RRSPs but it also provides a better retirement base forthose with pensions.
If the CLC’s plan were fully implemented, over just one generation it would eliminate the need for nearly $30 billion taxpayer dollarsto support the Guaranteed Income Supplement.
So – given that this all makes good common sense, guess what?
Federal Conservative Finance Minister Jim Flaherty – who initially supported an expanded CPP – changed his mind.
The big banks got to Flaherty and some provinces - just when we were close to a breakthrough.
But their strong opposition only means one thing - we are on the right track!
And that’s why I believe the New Democratic Party will play a critical role on retirement security.
It’s up to the NDP in Parliament and in the provinces to demandthat CPP expansion be implemented.
And think about this - it’s no accident that Medicare was pioneered by the CCF government of Tommy Douglas in Saskatchewan.
It’s no accident that most of our significant social programs were won when labour joined with progressive politicians in the CCF and then the NDP to force positive change.
It didn’t come easily, either.
We didn’t win Medicare without a fight .....and we can’t get a better Canada Pension Plan without one either.
So remember – all of us in labour and in the NDP have a big, big job to do before we can retire!
Thank you for listening and thank you for warmly including me in your convention!