Edited by Giuliano Bonoli and Toshimitsu Shinkawa
Chapter 12: Stasis Amidst Change: Canadian Pension Reform in an Age of Retrenchment
Daniel Béland and John Myles* INTRODUCTION The ongoing debate on pension reform among policy-makers in East Asian, North American and Western European countries has been framed by a conventional discourse depicting a developing demographic time bomb as the elderly population grows in relation to the overall population (Béland and Waddan, 2000). Since the 1980s, these demographic fears as well as macroeconomic constraints related to economic globalization and regional integration have favoured the enactment of various pension reforms in East Asia, North America and Western Europe. As in most countries, Canada’s national pension system is largely a product of the age of welfare state expansion that extended from the 1950s to the 1970s (see Section I). The result was a public system that might be characterized as a small-scale version of the traditional Swedish design: a universal flat benefit for all seniors (Old Age Security), supplemented by a guaranteed minimum (income-tested) pension (the Guaranteed Income Supplement), and a modest second tier of earnings-related pensions (the Canada and Quebec Pension Plans). Middle- and upper-income families supplement these benefits with employment-based pensions (Registered Pension Plans or RPPs) and personal retirement accounts (Registered Retirement Savings Plans or RRSPs). All of these elements were in place by the end of the 1960s. Since then, pension reform has emerged as a ‘hot point’ on the legislative agenda in three distinct periods. The period from the mid-1970s to the early 1980s brought the so-called Great Pension Debate, a high-profile but ultimately doomed attempt to expand...
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