Source: The Canadian Press

Nova Scotia’s government is accusing Alberta of standing in the way of expanding the Canada Pension Plan, saying the western province is opposed to change because it is locked in by ideology.

Graham Steele, Nova Scotia’s finance minister, was responding to comments made Wednesday by Canada’s new junior finance minister, Ted Menzies, who said any move to help people save for retirement by enhancing the pension plan are a long way off.

Menzies, appointed Tuesday as minister of state for finance, said reforms will have to wait because increased pension plan premiums could hurt the economy.

Steele said the Harper government is needlessly holding up the proposed expansion by insisting it must secure unanimous approval from the provinces. He said the law states Ottawa requires approval from only two thirds of the provinces representing two thirds of the population.

Ottawa’s stand has given Alberta an effective veto, he said.

“Alberta’s opposition to (expansion) of the Canada Pension Plan seems to be based on ideology,” Steele said after a provincial cabinet meeting in Halifax.

“They simply don’t believe that there should be a public response to what they consider to be a private issue. It’s not a view that the government of Nova Scotia shares … It’s seems unlikely they will ever be persuaded that this (expansion) will be the right thing to do.”

However, Alberta isn’t the only province with reservations about expanding the public pension plan.

On Tuesday, British Columbia’s finance minister said that even though he believes the plan needs review, changes shouldn’t be considered until the economy improves.

Colin Hansen said employers aren’t immediately able to assume additional payroll costs.

Still, Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter said Ottawa’s approach is wrong-headed.

“Like so many national questions, if you wait to get unanimity then it’s simply not going to happen,” he said Thursday, adding that Ottawa should stick with the two-thirds amending formula.

“This is a very significant issue for Canadians. It’s one that has been 30 years in the making … We are now getting to a point where we are essentially retiring people into income insecurity. In my view, the best way to deal with that is through a plan like CPP.”

Dexter rejected Menzies’ suggestion that expanding pension plan benefits would put an onerous burden on Canadian businesses, saying the lack of an adequate pension plan will result in social consequences that end up costing even more to deal with in the long run.

“I’m disappointed that the federal government doesn’t see it that way,” he said. “It is a difference of opinion.”