Nova Scotia wants national approach on a supplemental pension plan

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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HALIFAX - Finance Minister Graham Steele says he would like to see a national approach on a supplemental pension plan because Nova Scotia isn't big enough to go it alone.
The idea of a national plan is on the agenda at the meeting of finance ministers in Whitehorse on Thursday and Friday.
An expert panel chaired by Bill Black, the former chief executive officer of Maritime Life, recommended in a January report that the Nova Scotia government set up a plan because so many thousands of workers aren't members of plans and don't have enough savings for an adequate standard of living in retirement.
But Steele said he doesn't know if a provincial plan is workable.
"We're not sure that a provincial plan is something that can be done because of the size of our province. It may not be feasible," he said in a telephone interview from Halifax Stanfield International Airport.
"But certainly, we're interested in meeting the need identified by the Black committee report by participating in a national plan."
Almost two-thirds of Nova Scotia's workforce - about 272,000 people, including the self-employed - weren't plan members in 2006, the Black report noted. It recommended setting up an independent agency to administer a new plan that employers of any size could opt into. Government would only be responsible for setting it up and wouldn't take on any financial risk.
The provincial Liberals advocated the plan during the spring election campaign.
British Columbia and Alberta have done a lot of work on a plan for their provinces and it's something Saskatchewan supports.
Steele said he would be concerned if the western provinces do move on their own. He said a supplemental plan there would give people one more reason to move there to work, or stay there instead of coming to Nova Scotia.
He said there are no discussions with the other Atlantic provinces about a regional plan.
Steele said he is not expecting any decisions to be made at the meeting but options for further study will probably emerge. He said he hopes the move for a plan won't stall.
"I think we've identified a window of opportunity here. There's a lot of people who are working hard on this and are interested in it, and if we don't keep the momentum going, then there's a chance that we'll lose this window of opportunity."
Steele and the other ministers will see a report on the state of retirement income. Economic policy expert Jack Mintz prepared the report.
Despite calls from many corners that the lack of retirement savings and financial preparedness amounts to a national crisis, Mintz told The Canadian Press this week that in his assessment of how people are doing in providing for retirement, "it's not necessarily bad."
Federal Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff unveiled a proposal last week that he hopes the ministers consider.
It includes creating a supplementary Canada Pension Plan to allow people to voluntarily invest extra money, giving employees in pension plans whose employers went bankrupt the option of having the Canada Pension Plan take over management of their pension assets and giving Canadians on long-term disability pensions priority status as creditors in cases of bankruptcy.
The Canadian Labour Congress is sending representatives to Whitehorse to monitor the talks. President Ken Georgetti advocates phasing in a doubling of Canada Pension Plan benefits.

Organizations: Maritime Life, Halifax Stanfield International Airport, Canadian Press Canadian Labour Congress

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Whitehorse, British Columbia Alberta Saskatchewan

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