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When the Tories and the Fraser Institute team up to attack plans to improve the CPP, you know it needs fixing!

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Lisa Raitt

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Wow! Talk about a full-court press! All the usual suspects are pouring on their attacks against improvements to the Canada Pension Plan.

It's almost as if they're all singing from the same hymnbook -- probably one printed in the musty basement of the Fraser Institute bunker not far down the road from Vancouver's old Pacific Press Building, which is nowadays home to pricey, empty condos.

It should tell you something when the likes of the Fraser Institute, the remaining journalists of Canada's shrivelling "news industry," and the Conservative Party of Canada are all shouting at you about why improving the CPP is such a terrible idea.

And that something is not, just to be perfectly clear, that improving the CPP is a terrible idea.

On Friday, Conservative Finance Critic Lisa Raitt took to the airwaves to tell Canadians that higher contribution rates would be "a drastic step of increasing everybody’s cost across the board in order to get a benefit in the future."

A drastic step, got that? I’m mildly surprised she didn't call fixing the CPP for the 21st Century "a radical economic experiment." She probably will soon.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been taking the radical position that Canadians ought to be able to afford the things they need now while they try to save enough for a secure retirement. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, who like the PM is a Liberal, has been going a step further and saying that her province will set up its own supplementary plan if Ottawa doesn't do something about the fact that no one is going to have a decent retirement on $500 a month, which is roughly the average CPP payment.

No! No! Canadians are saving enough, really they are, explained Raitt, calling the plan to fix the CPP, in the CBC’s summation of her words, "a solution looking for a problem."

Oddly enough, these were the same words used by a former director of the Fraser Institute to describe the idea of improving the CPP. The opinion piece quotes a study by -- who else? -- the Fraser Institute.

Meanwhile the notorious boiler-room for market-fundamentalist propaganda on Burrard Street in Vancouver itself is churning out, well, propaganda telling us all why improving the CPP is a terrible idea, every word of it picked up and rebroadcast religiously by what's left of the mainstream media echo chamber.

Just last Thursday, the Fraserites published a list of "Five Myths of the Canada Pension Plan," which was quickly and hilariously debunked by the Broadbent Institute's Press Progress.

Let's start with the Press Progress rebuttal first -- which is what we used to call "Fairness, Accuracy and Balance" back in the days I still worked for the Calgary Herald, that fearless champion of the overdog.

In summary, the Fraser Institute denies the existence of the problem by averaging wealth mostly held by the wealthy, uses research "riddled with errors" to claim solving the problem will cause a problem, wildly exaggerates the cost of the CPP, misleadingly claims returns have declined, and proposes increased savings with private investment companies as a solution for low-income seniors. Say what?

However, I actually thought the Fraser Institute's Five Myths Documents did get effectively to one issue. To wit: The real reason all these folks are screaming about how we shouldn't even think about changing the CPP. "Myth 2" on the list of Fraser Factoids says that having Canadians contribute a little more to their federal pension "will reduce their private voluntary savings (in RRSPs, TSFAs and other investments)…"

It probably won't make a significant difference, but as Press Progress pointed out, a 2015 Statistics Canada study did find evidence of some decrease in private savings if government pensions are adequate. However, it qualified, "on the whole, the evidence shows 'employer-assisted saving' leads to 'greater wealth accumulation' for workers."

But this is likely the source of all the recent sound and fury, because any forgone profit for the investment industry is going to be viewed as a problem for the investment industry, its billionaire bosses, and its legions of lobbyists. Moreover, to be blunt about this, it's pretty obvious who the Fraser Institute, the Conservative Party and the financial media work for on issues like this, and why.

In this case of the media, this explains why, as Press Progress also noted, journalists never seem to actually check the "facts" in the Fraser Institute's endless stream of piffle-studies.

Plus, of course, there is the matter of employer contributions to the CPP. More forgone revenue, likely to be opposed as bitterly as the idea of a $15 minimum wage.

An honest accounting shows that Canadian families are saving for retirement at half the rate they did a quarter century ago, and the reason is because they can't afford to. "The best available evidence shows that half of today's middle-income earners born between 1945 and 1970 face a drop of at least 25 per cent in their standard of living when they retire," says the Canadian Labour Congress.

And if you're one of those who doesn't trust the CLC because, you know, they're union bosses, then how about the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce? The CIBC says the same thing.

Seniors living in poverty may suit Conservatives, the Fraser Institute and media outlets like Postmedia, which has a "strategic alliance" with a company gently described as "an online provider of short-term loans."

It shouldn't suit Canadians.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

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