Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty blocks CPP improvement plans: provinces

OTTAWA – Canada’s provinces say federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has blocked a proposal to find ways to enrich the Canada Pension Plan.

Ontario’s finance minister, Charles Sousa, emerged from a meeting today with his federal and provincial counterparts, saying the provinces had reached consensus on the way ahead — but were blocked by Flaherty.

And B.C.’s finance minister, Michael De Jong, said Ottawa’s move to halt progress means that “CPP enhancement is over in this forum.”

Sousa said Ontario is now prepared to go it alone with pension improvements.

P.E.I.’s Wes Sheridan said his province will need 24 hours to think about next steps, suggesting other provinces may follow Ontario’s lead.

Kevin Sorenson, federal minister of state for finance, emerged from the meeting earlier to say now is not the time to raise payroll taxes to pay for higher pensions.

Sorenson was filling in for a raspy-voiced federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty at the end of a meeting with provincial and territorial ministers.

Flaherty says it will take years for the economy to shake off the effects of the recession.

There might be room in the future to improve the national pension plan, he says, although he wouldn’t hazard a guess about when that might happen.

Sorenson says higher pension premiums would mean lost income and lost jobs.