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'The crisis isn't today, but the crisis is coming': Hansen on pensions

It's worth taking the time to get all Canadian provinces working together to improve the national pension system, British Columbia finance minister Colin Hansen said today.

“There is a growing interest to get on board this initiative that was started by B.C. and Alberta,” Hansen said. “If it takes us a little longer to get the other provinces on board, it would be time well spent.”

B.C. today posted a discussion paper on pension reform options and asked for public input that will be used to develop a position ahead of a premiers' meeting in August. All the provinces will be conducting similar public discussions, but B.C.'s is the first to launch, Hansen said.

Asked how today's announcement squares with his previous statements that the need for reform is “urgent”, Hansen said, “The crisis isn't today, but the crisis is coming if we don't act to make sure there's pension adequacy.”

About six percent of Canadians over 65 live in poverty, which is one of the lowest levels of poverty among the elderly in the world, he said. The issue is more threatening for coming generations who are working at a time when fewer employers are offering pension plans to supplement the CPP.

Any change needs to be made when the economy can best support it, Hansen added, noting that if the provinces and federal government keep working on the issue they may be ready to introduce something when the economy improves. “We know it will take a couple years.”

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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