Canadians face a retirement crisis. So the Globe and Mail. People are living longer, but not saving enough. Private pension plans are on the same track as the Big Three or the newspaper business. None of this is news exactly, having been the preferred wail of actuarial Cassandras for some years now, but the near collapse of the stock market last year seems to have stepped in to play Hurricane Katrina to the private pension sector’s rotten and unprepared New Orleans. Its not a potential mess anymore.
But of course not everybody is without a lifeboat. Try this: Who will survive Canada’s retirement crisis? A. Colonists on Mars. B. Mullah Omar. C. Public sector employees.
Yes, according to the Globe, 84% of public sector employees have pension plans and 78% of those are the good kind (defined benefit). The number of non-public-sector-union scum who get the same deal isn’t exactly zero, but its close enough. So the (pensionless) general public is going to be supporting the bullet-proof, gold-plated entitlements of public sector employees for generations. Imagine that.
In other news, the Canadian Press reports that the cost of building a kilometer of road is 37% higher in Quebec than the rest of Canada. Something to do with collusion among construction companies, allegedly, and also possibly involving the participation of a somewhat opaque organization known as “the Mafia”.
This is not to suggest that these two disparate examples of John Q Public getting rolled are at all similar. Collusion, conspiracy and consorting with shady organizations with a view to racketeering are not just disreputable but also illegal. A person could to prison for that kind of thing. In theory, anyway. Public contracts with public sector unions, by contrast, are openly negotiated and entirely legal. Yes, the public is getting shaved and paying a little too much – or way too much – for what it is getting. But such similarities are purely coincidental. And anyway, roads are still getting built. It’s not like they glommed off all the money. The passport office, the lottery commission and the Immigration and Refugee Board are still running.
The other, somewhat depressing, common element to these stories is how unimportant they are. The CP story reports that the authorities seem determined to peddle the issue as soft as they can. Organized crime expert Antonio Nicaso is quoted as saying “I don't think in Canada there is political will or commitment to fight organized crime.” A national two-tier pension system is just as yawn-worthy. The bedrock fact is that Canadians have been trained to pay. Whether this group or that group siphons some of the money off, well, maybe its somebody’s business, but, really who cares....