Once again, it is disappointing to note that Canada’s finance ministers could not reach agreement on pension reform.

The issue is that a large portion of Canada’s present workforce is not saving enough to ensure a retirement above the poverty level. Old Age Security and the present CPP benefits are insufficient to maintain an adequate income for pensioners.

There is also an increasing economic divide among Canadian retirees. Those with defined benefit plans (largely public servants) have huge pensions relative to others, particularly the large majority of Canadians who have no pension from their workplace.

Middle level federal civil servants receive pensions in the order of $5,000 to $6,000 a month and more. The irony is that it is the majority of Canadians, with no work related pension, are funding government employee pensions through their income taxes.

Those hesitating to consider pension reform, including federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, argue that higher contributions to the CPP, from both employee and employer, would have a detrimental effect on a fragile economy. While this is certainly a valid position, it is an argument for gradual reform, not for the status quo.

Flaherty and others also suggest that many Canadians have taken advantage of Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSP), Tax Free Savings Plans (TFSA) and other retirement programs. While true, there is a huge populace (Ottawa estimates in the 25-35 per cent range) that have made no provision for retirement. Though irresponsibility should not be rewarded, the stark reality remains that many of those affected are in lower paying occupations, where basic living expenses take up all their income.

Regardless of philosophy, it is clear today, and even moreso for the future, that we are creating a widening class distinction. Many of our neighbours will live out a very uncomfortable life and many more will become wards of the state.

THE YEAR THAT WAS

2013 was a year of turmoil, at home and abroad.

The Senate and Robert Ford theatres continue to dominate, cultivated by eastern media obsession.

In Alberta, victims continue to struggle in the aftermath of floods that impacted Calgary, High River, Medicine Hat and areas.

Typhoon Haiyan killed thousands in the Philippines and left millions homeless. The human tragedy in Syria has been relatively underreported. More than three million innocent souls have left the country (of which 1.1 million are children) and now reside in under equipped refugee camps in other countries. A further nine million are in desperate need of housing and food. This is from a total population of 22 million!

It is estimated that less than one-quarter of Syrian children are now enrolled in school. An entire generation could grow up without an education.

This is a political tragedy for which there is no excuse. All of us on this planet should be ashamed.

HAPPY NEW YEAR

Linda and I wish all of you a happy new year. Regardless of our circumstances, we are blessed beyond imagination, to live in Canada and Alberta.

May all of us recognize this blessing and reach out a little more to others.

“Much is required from the person to whom much is given” — Luke 12: 48

Source: Medicine Hat News