UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The politics of pensions in Canada 1960-1987 Desjardins, Marc


This thesis examines the evolution of Canadian pension politics over the last twenty-five years in order to understand why, after creating a public contributory plan in 1965, the state refused to extend its reach further in the 1980s and rather opted to regulate employer-sponsored pensions. This thesis develops an analytical framework which differs from previous studies. It postulates that pension politics can be best understood through the analysis of conflict within and between the non-governmental, intergovernmental and intragovernmental arenas. The study reveals that the provision of replacement income through public arrangements interfered with profitable activities in the business community and led to major confrontations. It also explains why there has been much less resistance to state intervention which aims to protect the elderly from outright poverty From 1960 to 1980 pension politics has evolved from a positive-sum game to a zero-sum game. While the creation of the CPP/QPP left ample room for private activities in this domain, a further extension of these arrangements in the 1980s would have seriously curtailed and transformed the role of business interests. This thesis challenges the view that the process of intergovernmental negotiations was a prime determinant of the failure of business interests in the 1960s and their success in the 1980s. Rather it is the failure of the insurance industry to gain the support of the rest of the business community and its attempt to derail the process which led to its failure in the first instance and its capacity to draw support and make significant counter-proposals which allowed the private sector to play an important role in the second instance. While the proposal for an expanded CPP drew business interests closer together, it pulled elements of the federal government apart. It is this deadlock, rather than intergovernmental bickering, which delayed the reform process. Finally, the regulation of employer-sponsored pensions was not preceded by open intergovernmental confrontation but came as a result of an adjustment process and negotiations rapidly led to concrete results although they held a greater potential for failure. Federalism does not seem to have seriously biased the nature of the pension policy-making process.

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