British Columbia is providing few details on the status of its consultations on the Canada Pension Plan despite a looming deadline of the end of the summer to decide if it will support changes to the program.

While the federal Department of Finance has confirmed the deadline of the end of the summer, B.C. government spokespeople failed to respond to several requests for an update on the status of the consultations and a timeline for a decision on the CPP expansion. For B.C. NDP finance critic Carole James, the consultations “certainly raised red flags” about the province’s continued support for the CPP changes, especially because Finance Minister Mike de Jong hadn’t initially been in favour of the expansion.

“My hope is it’s not a consultation saying are you for or against,” says James.

“At this stage, I want a real commitment from the B.C. government and I want them to move ahead on the implementation and on the agreement. If that means improving things based on consultations . . . that’s great, but not a concern about whether they’re going to move ahead. That shouldn’t be part of the consultation.”

On July 15, British Columbia missed the deadline to approve changes to the CPP and instead launched its own consultations on the expansion. If the province withdraws its support, the expansion may be in jeopardy, as Ottawa would no longer have the approval of two-thirds of the provinces representing two-thirds of the population.

Read: B.C. government doing little to solicit feedback on CPP enhancement

Despite questions over the B.C. government’s position, Rhys Kesselman, a professor of public policy at Simon Fraser University, speculates the consultation was just “a pro-forma exercise” to appease the small-business community.

“As you know, the [Canadian Federation for Independent Business] has fiercely opposed the CPP expansion,” he says.

Today, for example, the CFIB announced that according to a new Ipsos poll, 80 per cent of employed Canadians oppose the CPP expansion if it means wage cuts.

“This should be a wake-up call,” CFIB president Dan Kelly said in a release. “Canadians are telling their governments that they have a lot more work to do before moving forward with any kind of CPP expansion. Education, consultation, and only then, action. At this point, it would be irresponsible to proceed otherwise.”

Kesselman, on the other hand, disagrees.

“The B.C. government has had several years to consult and to hear views and to look at survey results and opinion polls that are both done nationally and broken down by province. . .” he says. “I can only make my own speculation that they want to stay on the good side of the small-business community because that is one of their large sources of support in elections.”

Kesselman also doubts the efficacy of the consultation’s method, which involves citizens emailing their thoughts on CPP expansion.

Read: CPP changes do little to ensure appropriate income for future retirees

“It’s the sort of thing groups like the small-business organizations — not only CFIB but chambers of commerce, groups like that — can rally their members on their websites and in their mailings to blanket the email address, to send in their comments and, for most people, this is a hardly visible process at all.”

He also notes opinion polls going back several years show strong public support for expanding CPP. “If the B.C. government responds saying 9:1 people who have sent their views oppose the expansion, it is highly, highly suspect.”

The CPP deal reached in June would increase income replacement to one-third from one-quarter of pensionable earnings, while raising premiums to 5.95 per cent from each of employers and employees over a five-year period beginning on Jan. 1, 2019.

Copyright © 2019 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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