CFIB AstroTurf technicians roll out part of their campaign against improved pensions for Canadians, a plan certain to harm the group’s naïve supporters. Below: A suggested sign for the windows of CFIB-member businesses.

Whew! That was a close one! We almost improved the Canada Pension Plan!

So says the so-called Canadian Federation of Independent Business. Listen carefully:

“Small business owners and employees can breathe a sigh of relief for the time being,” the CFIB said in an undated commentary posted to its website recently. “Finance ministers did not reach an agreement on increasing CPP and QPP premiums…” (Emphasis added, of course.)

“…But it is clear that this threat is not going away.” (Ditto.)

Got that, small business owners, entrepreneurs and independent business types? You’ve just had a close call with more people in your community having more money to spend in your businesses!

Yikers! Talk about scary! 

Thankfully, though – in no small part due to the tireless lobbying of your “friends” at the CFIB, who for a modest annual fee of $250 plus $30 per employee will advocate for “better taxes, laws and regulations for your business” – the threat of more money being spent in your local business has been averted, if only for the moment.

You also get a CFIB sticker to put in the door of your business.

Better send more money to the CFIB right now, to keep money as far away from your business’s bottom line as possible.

You’ll be pleased to learn that money that might have ended up in the pockets of pensioners, who likely would have spent it right in your own community, maybe even on your business, will now go to billionaires who buy foreign cars, send their kids to foreign universities, and hoard their cash in foreign bank accounts so they can pay virtually no taxes. Even if they could spend as much as thousands of pensioners, of course, those billionaires would never darken the door of a déclassé establishment like yours.

Your donation to the CFIB will also go to the group’s parallel campaign to reduce the pensions of public employees on the fatuous grounds that, if only returned civil servants could be impoverished, other Canadians, like you, would have more money in their jeans.

OK. Enough sarcasm. The CFIB is what’s known as an AstroTurf group, after the artificial grass of the same name used in football stadiums and the like. That is to say, the CFIB pretends to represent small business people but in reality often works against their interests – as in its related campaigns against public service pensions and improved CPP benefits.

Entrepreneurs and other small business people who naively send the CFIB’s well-paid operatives their money are working against their own interests to serve the CFIB’s real clients – big banks, global corporations and the ultra-wealthy.

Alas for the CFIB’s members, attacking civil service pensions is unlikely to save taxpayers any money, although it will drive pensioners to the high-cost, private-sector, for-profit “wealth management” industry – which, it is said here, is the real point of the CFIB campaign that small business owners who are snookered into joining this group are helping to finance.

Like CPP recipients, retired members of public service pension plans (who get an average of less than $15,000 per annum here in Alberta, just in case you thought they were all bazillionaires) tend to spend their money close to home on the kinds of services and products small independent businesses provide.

Back when this debate was getting started, economist Douglas D. Peters wrote that “an increase in savings, whether from increased CPP premiums or larger RRSP contributions or other savings, has exactly the same effect on the economy.”

“The exception,” he emphasized, “is that increased RRSP contributions will make the financial institutions better off, while an increase in CPP contributions will make Canadian pensioners better off.” Remember, Mr. Peters is the former chief economist of the Toronto Dominion Bank, so he’s probably not a raging socialist.

If you think about it, it makes sense that programs like CPP and decent employer pension plans do far more for local economies than tax breaks for big cash-hoarding global corporations with an interest in fomenting an international race to the bottom, or subsidies for hyper-expensive corporate mega-projects like sports stadiums, real AstroTurf and all.

As noted, pensions deliver the cash to the people most likely to spend it – and spend it at home.

They are especially helpful in small communities without a diversity of local industries or other sources of regional income, where the income they provide can stabilize local businesses during economic downturns. After all, pensioners on defined-benefits pension plans – the kind the CFIB campaigns tirelessly to destroy – don’t have to worry about cutting their modest spending when the stock market goes south.

Now, notwithstanding all this, it seems highly unlikely arguments of this sort will persuade the CFIB’s naïve “members” to stop their self-destructive activities or even pay attention to what they’re really doing. They’ve drunk the Kool-Aid, and they’ve got the sticker on the door to prove it.

What to do? Well, maybe it’s time to stage an intervention!

This might not change their minds, but it might get them thinking – both about the snake oil that the CFIB has been selling them and the contribution to their businesses made by people whom they attack every day throughout their contributions to the CFIB.

I suggest pensioners start asking local businesses that display CFIB stickers if they can also leave a sign on their door that says something along the lines of “Your pension money is not wanted here!”

Indeed, it’s not just pension money they don’t want. Another sign could say: “Go away! We don’t want money from public sector wages or pensions!”

I don’t expect many independent businesses would want to display these signs. But it might be a useful illustration to them who really supports their businesses – and who doesn’t!

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  1. Very good service performed here David. As you point out the economic benefits are not always immediately apparent, especially to the busy lay-person who gets most of their ‘news’ from MSM.
    It’s very important that folks begin to understand that profits are their excess labour and to the extent that those profits stay in their community the local economy thrives. As distinct from those profits going to others outside the community (be that local, regional or national) or to a single individual (or small group of individuals) where the economic benefits are lost to that community forever.

    1. I’d be careful with that acronym, ‘MSM’; while in this context it probably means mainstream media, it can also mean ‘men who have sex with men’, which totally changes the meaning of your comment. 😉

      1. Jerry, Jerry… As a busy lay-person myself, I was deeply shocked and distressed to learn this. I live a protected existence and it has simply never occurred to me, nor to Ranger Kim either I am sure, that MSM might mean MWHSWM in some circles! One can only imagine what WYSIWYG or B2B might mean in the same social set! One additional quibble: MSM, which surely is pronounced Em-Ess-Em regardless of its meaning, is an initialization, not an acronym. If it were an acronym, we would all have to say: Mmmmmm-sssss-mmmmm! Can’t say I like the sound of that AT ALL!

  2. For a good review of the economic impacts of public sector pension plans check out the Conference Board of Canada report on the pact of the BC Public Sector Plans available on the Conference Board website.

  3. I think the lettering on the bottom of the sign needs enlarging. Thank you for also raising the issue of who gets to gain from privatizing public pensions (including the CPP): financial insitutions. Heather Smith of the United Nurses of Alberta has pointed out that pre-medicare we didn’t stop people from accessing private care because the majority didn’t have it. We fixed the inequality by having health care provided to everyone. That’s the fix we need for the pension issue.

  4. Last week I attended a pension forum sponsored by local NDP MPs. The purpose was to inform the public that improved CPP is a good thing and an editorial in the Globe and Mail even agreed.

    During question period, a speaker from the public announced he had visited stores with CFIB signs in the window and asked the proprietors if they knew that the CFIB has opposed CPP improvements. He said none of them did. Once they found out, some were unhappy and took the signs down. Makes one wonder about communication between suits at the CFIB and their membership.

  5. Talk about astroturfing!!! Nice try. If public sector pensioners only got $15,000/yr there would be no discussion or concern. Unlike your outdated stats, public sector (tax TAKER) pensions are gold plated (defined benefit) these days, especially given the rapid rise in the number of civil servants who graduate to the sunshine list just before they retire. And no, little of that dough will be seen in any CFIB members’ shops- much of it will go to happily ensconced snowbirds living it up in foreign destinations. More than anybody, they understand what kind of trap they have set for the tax PAYER sheeple left behind who will have to pick up the tab. Or will we? I say no, screw you all, cut these gold plated pensions down to size. Gee, the $15,000/yr you mentioned sounds just about right. After all, your monopoly unions sure held us to ransom while you were at the trough, so a little belt tightening later on will keep you in tune with tax PAYERS who’ve been squeezed (by gummermint) for so long.

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