I’ve been feeling a bit stressed lately because some dirty rotten scoundrels are trying to steal my savings and I don’t know how to stop them. I know why they are doing it, though. They borrowed some money they didn’t have and gave it to their friends. The friends didn’t really need it, but the scoundrels wanted to curry their favour. After that, though, the crooks didn’t have enough money to live on, and now they are going after mine.
That, in a nutshell, is what is happening in Alberta. The scoundrels are the United Conservative Party led by Jason Kenney. Their friends are the oil and gas industries. The money they borrowed was in the form of 4.7 billion dollars of tax concessions. This has resulted in a huge loss of income to the province, and that has to be made up elsewhere.
As you may imagine, there have been all sorts of cutbacks to education, health care, social assistance, police services, municipalities, and so on. Thousands of people have been laid off.
All those cutbacks are apparently not enough, so they are going after the pension funds of public sector workers, too. They have already unilaterally, without consultation, snagged the teachers’ pensions, and they have their eyes on the local authorities’ and civil servants’ pensions, too.
They tell us they will manage the funds more effectively, which I very much doubt. They have also decided that it is OK for them to skim 10% off the top for themselves. They are rushing a huge omnibus bill through the provincial parliament at breakneck speed, giving the rest of us no time to absorb it all and very little opportunity to stop it.
I have been retired since 2011, and my pension is my primary source of income. It terrifies me to think that the government could just take the money I have saved while I was working and use it to prop up declining industries. I would never choose to invest there, but I won’t be given a choice. They are not asking what I think.
All this reminds me of the ways in which the miners’ pensions have been raided in the UK. It happened over decades, but eventually, the pensions of the miners were a pittance. Now, their payouts average £84 a week ($106 US, $141 Cdn). Clearly, that’s not enough for anyone to live on. Perhaps the plan is to starve them to death because that’s what it looks like.
During the last few years of my working life, I spent many hours figuring out how and when to retire. I consulted with financial advisors and calculated how much I would need. I factored in how long I was likely to live (based on my parents’ longevity and my lifestyle) and made choices about how I wanted to spend my retirement years. Those were difficult calculations to make, but I was determined to do it right.
Now, apparently, all that effort was for naught. Out of the blue, I discover that the pension fund that houses my savings can be raided and there is nothing I can do about it. I hope my children have comfortable couches because that is where I fear I might end up.
For an excellent discussion of the current state of Alberta politics, see https://susanonthesoapbox.com/2019/11/25/bill-22-an-attack-on-democracy/
Also, a clear explanation of the pension grab can be found in this podcast: