Flaherty: No consensus, but 'modest' CPP expansion possible

OTTAWA – There still isn’t enough support from the provinces to expand the Canada Pension Plan, but Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says there’s hope of “a way forward” provided the economy continues to grow.

Flaherty, who spent the day meeting with his provincial counterparts, says they agreed to establish a set of economic “triggers” based on GDP and job growth that would allow the pension plan to expand without endangering the economy.

“There’s no consensus on CPP expansion at this time,” Flaherty said.

“The ministers did agree that we would task our officials with working on definitions of ‘modest increase’ and ‘economic triggers’ that we would then discuss at our next meeting in June.”

Ottawa and provinces will work for the next six months to map out a strategy for moving ahead, Flaherty told a wrap-up news conference Monday.

He says ministers want to establish “triggers” on GDP growth and employment that would permit expanding the pension program without risking damage to the economy.

Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan, one of the most vocal proponents of urgent pension reform, says he’s encouraged by the meeting, even if the pace of discussions is a bit slow for his liking.

“There isn’t consensus for moving forward now, but there’s certainly an overwhelming majority of the provinces that do want to move forward,” Duncan said.

A “substantial minority” of middle-income Canadians aren’t saving enough for retirement, Duncan said.

“We think it’s vitally important to jobs and a stronger economy in the future that we deal with this now.”

Flaherty, however, said he and some of his provincial colleagues are still worried about increasing costs for employers at a time when the recovery is still fragile.

He said all sides are well aware of the economic challenges and responsibilities they face and plan to continue to work together to confront them.

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