Poll finds waning confidence in future of Canada Pension Plan

Steve Mertl
National Affairs Contributor
Daily Brew

Just as the federal Conservative government is trying to sell voters on the need for pension reform, a poll suggests almost half of Canadians worry the bedrock Canada Pension Plan won't be there for them when they retire.

The poll by Nanos Research, conducted for CTV News and the Globe and Mail, found that 48 per cent of Canadians surveyed earlier this month were "somewhat not confident" or "not confident" in the future of the CPP or the Quebec Pension Plan.

That's a decline in confidence from a 2010 Nanos survey result of 41 per cent.

The new poll found 41 per cent of respondents were confident or somewhat confident in the CPP but a majority - 59 per cent - also said they believed pension payments would be reduced in the future, CTV News reported.

The online poll of 1,001 Canadians done between Feb. 7 and 11, found many were pessimistic about private pensions, many of which are in financial trouble due to poor investment returns. Some 47 per cent said they lacked confidence in their company's pension plan and 60 per sent expected payments from such plans to be cut in the future.

The Canada Pension Plan, set up in 1966, requires working Canadians and their employers to contribute a portion of their income to the fund.

Concerns in the 1990s about the sustainability of the plan in the face of an aging work force and increased life-expectancy prompted the then Liberal government to boost contribution requirements from the original 1.8 per cent to a combined 9.9 per cent in 2003.

The changes were thought to have helped ensure the CPP's future for 75 years and experts generally consider it well-managed. But like all pension plans, it hasn't been immune to poor market returns in the last few years.

The federal government has been softening the ground recently for changes to Old Age Security, a separate pension not covered by contributions.

This week, Human Resources Minister Diane Finley confirmed a detailed plan would be presented in the upcoming budget, The Canadian Press reported.

Older Canadians have reacted negatively to speculation the Tories want to boost the age when people can collect OAS to 67 from 65. Economists have said the program is in good shape and there's no need to increase the age limit.

But in a Toronto speech Tuesday, Finley said without reforms young Canadians will face higher taxes, reduced social programs or larger budget deficits.