“To see the government actually proposing changes that go backwards … in protecting women’s rights is, frankly, astonishing,” NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair recently told reporters.
The Liberals have been working with provinces and territories to expand the current Canada Pension Plan regime. But the resulting bill has a “serious” omission, changing a provision for people who temporarily leave the workforce to raise children, the NDP says.
WATCH: Changes to the Canada Pension Plan and what that can mean for you
Currently, Canadians are able to “drop out” or exclude years spent at home with children under the age of seven. Because CPP benefits are calculated based on how much and for how long an individual contributed, ignoring those years of zero or lower contributions can mean higher monthly pension payments upon retirement.
READ MORE: How the CPP changes will affect your future
There is a similar condition for Canadians with disabilities, both of which were brought in under Pierre Trudeau in the 1970s – and both of which are missing from the proposed legislation for expanded CPP introduced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet.
Because more women than men are primary caregivers, and because women on average earn lower wages than men, the NDP says the move is an affront to women – especially considering Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s styling as a feminist.
“Trampling on women’s rights like that is not very feminist, is it?” Mulcair asked in the House of Commons this week.
WATCH: Canadians misinformed on CPP expansion deal, says CFIB
Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said the enhanced CPP program “is good news” for all Canadians.
After side-stepping questions on the matter for days, Duclos said a form of the drop-out provision remains, but that a parent has to contribute to CPP for 40 years in order to qualify.
The minister gave an example of someone who starts working at 20 years old and retires at 65.
“That means that this person is not going to be penalized when it comes to receiving CPP benefits even though he or she may take five years away from work … for any purpose including child care, compassionate care or many other sorts of leave.”
If someone only contributes for 39 years, however, their retirement benefit will be afftected.
On the government site where retirees can apply for the current child rearing drop-out provision, there is an example of a woman named Julie.
The story doesn’t say when she started working, but that she took six years off work beginning when her daughter, Elizabeth, was born in 1983.
Upon retiring in 2016, the story goes, Julie successfully applied for the provision and had the years 1983-1990 excluded from the calculation of her CPP benefits.
“Julie will receive a CPP retirement pension of $735 per month. Without the benefit of the child-rearing provision, her pension would have been $650 per month,” the government’s site says.
Had Julie been like Dulcos’ example and started working when she was 20 years old, the government would have had to count her non-contributing years in determining her CPP payments. That leaves her more than $1,000 short each year of her retirement.
The House of Commons finance committee began studying the government bill on CPP this week, and members can submit proposed amendments until Nov. 21.