Golden Piggy awardws are awarded by the CTF for the best in government waste.
Credits: File Photo.
On Wednesday, the low-tax lobby group called for governments to freeze public sector pensions and convert them from defined benefit plans to the defined contribution plans - currently the private sector standard.
"We have to move to a retirement scheme that isn't going to bankrupt the country," CTF national director Gregory Thomas said, noting almost 82% of public workers enjoy the gold-standard plan, compared with 12.7% of private sector employees.
Economic think-tanks like the CD Howe Institute have estimated unfunded liabilities of public sector pensions run into the billions of dollars.
"The money is not there to cover these obligations," Thomas said.
But the president of Canada's largest union accuses the CTF of trying to foster "pension envy."
"The solution to that is not scaling back public sector pension plans - they have to be managed responsibly, and they are," said Paul Moist, president of CUPE.
Keith Ambachtsheer, a pension expert at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, said public pension can be sustainable - if they're reformed.
When defined benefit plans were created, "We lived in a different time," he said. The workforce was younger, interest rates were higher, and the stock market offered double-digit returns.
"Times have changed," he said, with markets "going sideways" and the work force aging.
"The old models need to change and adapt to new times - and that process is happening but it's not finished. Nobody rolls over in bargaining situations."
In fact, getting out of promised benefit programs can come with a price tag to taxpayers. The federal government recently earmarked $6 billion in payouts to end a severance program, and MPP pension reforms in Ontario in the 1990s came with a $109 million compensation package.
Thomas admitted the CTF hadn't calculated the costs of removing defined benefit plans from collective agreements.
Meanwhile, Moist conceded demographics and the stumbling economy was putting pressure on the public pensions - but said unions and employers were working to shore up the plans.
Besides, he said, the debate over pension plans is missing the real retirement income security problem -- many Canadians aren't building a big enough nest egg.
"Everybody thinks that's a looming issue for the country," he said.