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BC opens public input on 'urgent' pension question

The British Columbia government launched a two-month public discussion on pension reform today, despite finance minister Colin Hansen having described the issue as “urgent” back in November.

B.C. released a nine-page discussion paper that outlines how Canadians now provide for their retirements and considers four of the possibilities for changes. They include expanding the existing Canada Pension Plan, creating a voluntary supplement to the CPP, changing pension regulations to “improve flexibility” and making changes to tax laws.

The province will accept submissions up until April 1 and will use them to develop recommendations for a premiers' meeting to be held in August, the news release said.

In November, Hansen told the Tyee the province was ready for movement on the pension file. “What I said to my colleagues nationally is 'we're not going to sit around and contemplate on this for 10 years,'" he said in a story that was part of a Tyee series on pension reform. "We think there is a certain urgency to it today and we're not going to spend a lot of time building a national consensus.”

B.C. had already been studying pension reform for some time. In Nov., 2008, a six-person panel released the 241-page report, Getting Our Acts Together: Pension Reform in Alberta and British Columbia. It advocated B.C. and Alberta setting up a new supplementary, voluntary pension plan.

Ahead of the December meeting Hansen warned that B.C. and Alberta were prepared to act alone if other provinces and Ottawa were unready to act in the “near term”.

A finance ministry spokesperson did not respond by publication time to a request for an interview with Hansen today.

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

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