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wait for province to rule on access to pensions
Curtis Brown ,
August 2, 2003
The longer the issue simmers on the backburner, the more Murray
Pushka worries the provincial government will stall on changes which would
allow retirees to access more of their pension funds.
Pushka, a former City of Brandon employee, and a group of local
seniors have been after the province to start granting full access upon
retirement to the 180,000 Manitobans who have Life Income Funds (LIFs) and
Locked-In Retirement Funds (LIRFs).
"It's going to die if we leave it. I just want to keep things
going. I've spent too much time and money on it," Pushka says.
The Pension Review Commission started reviewing Manitoba's Pension
Benefits Act for the first time in 19 years in January, travelling to
Brandon and Winnipeg to hear from seniors who were interested in seeing
changes to pension rules.
For years, seniors have only been able to take out roughly six per
cent of their accumulated locked-in pensions per year, although the
government did make an amendment that took effect Dec. 31, 2002 that
allows retirees between 55 and 64 to apply and receive a larger portion of
their incomes if they had enough income.
Robert Ziegler, the head of the pension commission, will go over
the committee's recommendations with interim Labour Minister Steve Ashton
later this month.
But until the government decides to make the report public, Ziegler
will not comment on his recommended changes.
"I think the government is eager to get on with the
issue," says Ziegler, president of Manitoba's United Food and
Commercial Workers union.
"I think (Ashton) still wants to get a feeling for it and
present it to the rest of cabinet ... I believe they want to act on this
Hank Monita would like to see the government get it over with and
make a decision.
The Westoba Credit Union employee, who is three years away from
retirement, wants some indication of what direction the government will go
Saskatchewan recently started allowing people with locked-in
pensions to draw the full amount out of their accumulated benefits and
Monita would like to see Manitoba do the same.
"Some of us made investment decisions knowing the rules but
believing the rules were archaic and would change," says Monita.
"Saskatchewan seems to have led the way. For us to ask what
they have, I think, is not unrealistic."
A spokesperson for Ashton, Peter Dalla-Vicenza, says that the
minister wants a chance to review the commission's findings before it goes
Pushka worries things could be delayed even longer if Ashton ends
up leaving the portfolio to someone else, since Ashton is currently the
NDP's minister of conservation and Premier Gary Doer is expected to change
his cabinet in the fall.
Most of all, he would like to see some options offered to seniors,
as he says the delay causes them to put off retirement purchases and
"Give people their choice. People that are retired aren't
stupid and they know what they want," says Pushka.
"I can't see any wrongdoing in that."