Diane Francis: Re-politicizing CPP would be a disaster

January 06, 2021

Bill C-231 would return us to the days when the CPP was a slush fund governments recklessly borrowed from until it became virtually insolvent

The latest salvo from Canada’s loony left — Bill C-231 — was introduced last February by New Democrat MP Alistair MacGregor, and has been grinding its way through Parliament ever since.

It aims to amend the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board Act by scrapping the independent and successful investment practices of the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and instead appointing political puppets who would be guided by “ethical” investing practices

“What is meant by all the terminology that the member puts in, but does not define?” asked Tory finance critic Pierre Poilievre in Parliament. “We don’t know what is meant because the member does not tell us. Environmental violations? Well, this particular member has written that it would be a violation to invest in oil and gas companies.”

The bill would prevent CPP from investing in Canada’s largest exporting industry, as well as in the 10 biggest companies on the Toronto Stock Exchange, he added. “The NDP considers (corporate) profits unethical.… Excluding profitable companies from the pension plan’s portfolio guarantees the impoverishment of Canada’s pensioners.”

    Excluding profitable companies from the pension plan’s portfolio guarantees the impoverishment of Canada’s pensioners

    Tory finance critic Pierre Poilievre

Tangled in vague platitudes, Bill C-231 is a malign ideological attack on investments in legal enterprises. It would return Canada to the bad old days before 1997 when the Canada Pension Plan was a slush fund that governments recklessly borrowed from until it became virtually insolvent. That crisis led to the creation of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB), an arm’s-length organization that invests surplus pension funds prudently, in order to guarantee that retirement benefits will be there for Canadians when they need them.

This bill would upend the CPPIB, which, with a fund valued at $456 billion (roughly 20 per cent of Canada’s GDP), has become one of the largest in the world and a leader among its peers in terms of creating value. This achievement has only been possible because it has been protected from the type of political interference MacGregor desires.

Most private member’s bills go nowhere, but anything can happen in Canada, especially in a minority Parliament in which the Liberals rely on the NDP to stay in power.

MacGregor has lived off the public purse most of his life (as have most New Democrats and Liberals), having transitioned directly from an arts education to professional politics, starting as an aide to an MP, then becoming one in 2015.

Given his anti-business agenda, if MacGregor had his way, the CPP would be forced to disinvest in oil and gas, mining, forestry, agriculture, autos, manufacturing, tech and banks. This would, in turn, pull the rug out from beneath the Toronto Stock Exchange, reduce investment, increase unemployment and hurt Canada’s reputation globally. This is the modus operandi behind the “build back better” lunacy of the left.

“The CPPIB was depoliticized 15 years ago to get the sticky fingers and incompetent hands out of pensions for Canadians and give management over to professionals,” said Poilievre. “Now some may believe ‘what could we do with that half a trillion dollars?’ The longer they spend at this pace, the faster we’ll go broke and they will need to look at getting their hands on this pot of gold.”

The Liberals have already been inappropriately deducting CPP assets from federal debts to lower per capita debt figures, as if that money belonged to the government — which it doesn’t. Pressure is already being placed on pensions and private-sector companies to invest in “green” enterprises and make-work projects. The left has severely damaged Canada’s most important industry, oil and gas.

The truth is that Canada has nothing to be ashamed of and neither does the CPPIB. We have stringent environmental regulations in place, and Canadian pension savings are not invested in companies that enslave, despoil or break laws.

Even so, Poilievre correctly warned the public: “We must keep CPP out of their hands so it can provide an honest return to hard-working Canadians in their retirement years.”

If that does not happen, then “Canukastan” won’t just be a punch line.


Financial Post