Thursday, March 29, 2012

The greatest show on earth

The big budget circus happens today. The big item, not to be lost sight of among all the other baubles that will be in the window, is in the headline here: "Conservative's budget to reset retirement at age 67." It's a legacy choice by Stephen Harper, he will be the Prime Minister who raised the pension eligibility age. It will be couched and massaged and people will be assured that it is down the road and it won't affect anyone even nearing retirement. But it is a massive, cultural economic change and it is likely to remain an ongoing symbolic issue representing the choices this Conservative government makes.

Polls when this change was first rolled out as a possibility showed overwhelming opposition. Yet the government has done relatively little to campaign in favour of their choice.

What seems to be on offer in terms of sharing in the pain are cuts to parliamentary office budgets and no longer allowing business class seats on MP flights under 2 hours. It appears there will be pension changes for MPs as well.

It is likely, however, that there will still be lots of Canadians, approaching retirement age, who are wondering just how much they trust Stephen Harper with, say, the CPP eligibility age as well. Who are wondering, hmmm, where will I be working when I'm 65? Wondering whether they'll even be able to be employed at 65. Or, wondering whether someone will keep them on or hire them in their sixties. Even those who are not near retirement but who are struggling to save for retirement may find themselves starting to think about the role of government and what they want it to do in Canada. Do they want it rolled back on matters like this that constitute a public trust? We will be finding out. And see the polls linked to above.

"[B]ack office stuff," says Flaherty on the cuts. Even a "prosperity" budget, say others. Stay tuned for today's big sales job.