TORONTO — Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne suggested Tuesday that her government would drop the idea of a provincial pension plan if Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau becomes the next prime minister.
Wynne couldn’t convince the Harper government to enhance the Canada Pension Plan, so her Liberal government introduced an Ontario Retirement Pension Plan that would mirror the CPP, essentially doubling deductions and benefits.
If Trudeau wins the Oct. 19 election and is willing to improve the CPP, that would address her concerns about people without a workplace pension plan not having enough money to live on when they retire, said Wynne.
“If we have a partner in Justin Trudeau to sit down and work out what they’re looking at as an enhancement to CPP, that was always my starting point, that was the solution,” she said.
Trudeau is campaigning on a promise to expand the CPP and to return the age of eligibility for old age security to 65 from 67, and said he’d begin talks with the provinces on improving the CPP within three months of taking office.
New Democrat Leader Tom Mulcair also promises to enhance the CPP, and says he’d convene a First Ministers’ meeting on improving the pension plan within six months of forming government. Like the Liberals, the NDP would also return the age for OAS eligibility to 65.
Ontario’s pension plan, scheduled to begin Jan. 1, 2017, will require mandatory contributions of 1.9 per cent of pay from employers and a matching amount from workers — up to $1,643 a year — at any company that does not offer a pension.
As Wynne campaigned with federal Liberal candidates in the Toronto area Tuesday, she insisted she was not worried her attacks on Stephen Harper’s Conservatives will make it hard to work with them if they’re re−elected.
“Well, you know, it seems to me that before the federal election campaign started there was a little bit of a challenge working with Stephen Harper, but obviously I will continue to try to do that if Stephen Harper is the prime minister,” she said to cheers and laughter from Liberal supporters.
Wynne, who has been the most vocal premier in the federal campaign and has clashed repeatedly with Harper over the Ontario pension plan, said the provinces need a government in Ottawa that will work with them on retirement security, climate change, infrastructure and the Syrian refugee crisis.
“I will work with whomever is the prime minister, but I really believe that in this country, at this moment, we have an opportunity to elect a prime minister who understands that working with the provinces and territories is in the best interests of the country,” she said.
Ontario voters historically have supported different parties in government at the federal and provincial levels, but Wynne isn’t worried about campaigning herself out of a job in the next provincial election.
“I think the opportunity we have right now is to have a federal government and a provincial government that are on the same page, that are actually pulling in the same direction, and that’s exactly what I’m looking forward to,” she said.
Wynne also defended her decision to campaign heavily for her Liberal cousins in the federal election as “standing up for the people of Ontario,” and said she didn’t need to take a vacation day from her duties as premier to do it.
Keith Leslie, The Canadian Press