Time is ripe for public sector pension reform: governments urged to follow City of Regina's lead

TORONTO, May 25, 2011 /CNW/ - As concerns about the growing cost of public sector pensions continue to mount, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is urging all levels of government to follow Regina City Council's lead and take action on pension reform in Canada.

Recently, Regina City Council denied a request to approve contribution rate increases to the Civic Employees' Superannuation and Benefit Plan. "The proposed increase would have cost taxpayers and the City of Regina alone an estimated $3.8 million or the equivalent of a 2.72 per cent property tax hike," stated CFIB's president Catherine Swift. "Small business owners, as property taxpayers, are pleased the City is finally taking action on this unsustainable plan that is underfunded by $238 million."

Regina has also decided to examine and pursue several changes to the current pension plan including reducing future benefits and introducing a Target Benefit type plan for new Plan entrants to cap future liabilities for the City, taxpayers and employees. "While these changes are long overdue, they are important first steps and solutions to an enormous problem but it's what they stand for that are most important - the need for reform and the courage to bring it about," noted Virginia Labbie, CFIB's senior policy analyst, Saskatchewan and Agri-business.

"Time is of the essence for other cities and levels of government to take action," explained Swift. "It is profoundly unfair and financially irresponsible that Canadian taxpayers are not privy to the extent of their indebtedness to the unfunded public sector pension plans at all levels of government. Now it's a matter of other jurisdictions to take notice and stand up in support."

With pension liabilities for federal civil servants now estimated at $200 billion and countless other cities and provincial governments facing underfunded public sector pensions, CFIB is asserting that the time is ripe for public sector pension reform across the board.

"We are not calling for changes to past benefits that have already been earned," clarified Swift. "However, we are calling on governments to reform public sector plans along the lines of what is happening in many private sector plans - reducing benefits and converting defined benefit plans to defined contribution plans.  These are necessary steps in striking a better balance between taxpayers and public sector employees."

"The decision made by Regina City Council to move forward on pension reform should be a call to action for other cities and levels of government," concluded Swift. "As decision makers in this country, we hope leaders will be courageous and do the right thing by joining Regina in taking these important first steps towards pension reform."

As Canada's largest association of small- and medium-sized businesses, CFIB is Powered by Entrepreneurs™. Established in 1971, CFIB takes direction from more than 108,000 members in every sector nationwide, giving independent business a strong and influential voice at all levels of government and helping to grow the economy.


SOURCE CANADIAN FEDERATION OF INDEPENDENT BUSINESS

For further information:

or to arrange an interview with Catherine Swift, please contact Gisele Lumsden or Meghan Carrington at 416-222-8022 or via public.affairs@cfib.ca To arrange an interview with Virginia Labbie regarding the Regina City Council decision, please call 306-757-0000.

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