Ontario Election Update – Pension Security

 

(for Ontario members and for other members with family/friends who vote in Ontario)

 

In order to assist our membership in advance of the upcoming Ontario election, BPG, in collaboration with the Canadian Federation of Pensioners (CFP), is providing a synopsis of the record/platform of each major Ontario political party regarding issues relating to pension security.

 

The Ontario government’s performance on pension issues is important to BPG members for two reasons:

  • First, although the Bell Canada pension plan is regulated federally, some of our members have pensions from the BCE pension plan which is subject to Ontario regulation.
  • Secondly, the positions and frameworks adopted by one jurisdiction (such as Ontario) can influence the positions taken by others (such as the federal jurisdiction). Notably, the federal government has announced that it will be conducting a public consultation on pension security measures.

 

The position of each major political party is summarized below. Our conclusion is that the NDP’s position and platform appears to provide the most progress for pension security.

 

The Liberal Party of Ontario 

 

The governments of Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne have had a poor record on pension protection:

  • Successive Liberal governments have consistently favoured plan sponsor companies at the expense of pensioners, beginning a decade ago with TEMPORARY funding-relief measures for companies and continuing to the most recent legislation offering PERMANENT funding-relief;
  • At the same time that Sears pensioners were losing about 20% of their earned pensions in the company bankruptcy, the Wynne government implemented legislation that exacerbated the problems exposed by Sears instead of fixing them;
  • The Sears experience highlighted two problems with Ontario legislation:
    • o Poor funding enforcement rules; and
    • o Inadequate pension insurance.
  • Instead of fixing these problems using a no-cost-to-taxpayer proposal from the CFP, the Wynne government made them collectively worse by:
    • o Dropping pension funding requirements from 100% to 85%;
    • o Loosening funding rules; and
    • o Tweaking pension insurance instead of fixing it.
  • Wynne’s legislation delivered:
    • o a windfall gain to plan sponsor companies resulting from the reduced funding requirements; we estimate this gain to be about $1.4 billion/year;
    • o greatly increased risk to Ontario-registered pensions; and
    • o an inadequate “floor” guarantee of $1,500/month in the employer-funded pension insurance plan; this amount is about half the amount it would be had the “floor” amount been indexed to inflation from the time the original guarantee fund was established.
  • Despite these deficiencies, Premier Wynne described her party’s legislation as having “The Right Balance”. 
  • Given that the Wynne government just went through a long consultation process leading to the above changes to the pension regime, we feel it is unlikely that progress willbe possible with a new Liberal government to achieve a "balance" that better reflects pensioner interests.

    Update to the Ontario Liberal Party Platform

    Having weakened pension security in Ontario through its December 2017 legislation, the Ontario Liberal party has now added several measures related to improving retirement security to its election platform - most notably, calling on the federal government to adopt the super-priority designation for pension shortfalls in cases of bankruptcy or insolvency.  This aligns with one of the key activities presently being pursued by BPG.  

     

    See the following link for the full details of the Liberal plan:

    https://platform.ontarioliberal.ca/issue/better-retirement-security/

 

 

The PC party of Ontario        

 

  • In 1980, the Conservative government introduced an employer-funded pension insurance plan - with an unindexed “floor” pension guarantee of $1000/month. (If this amount had been indexed to inflation, it would be almost $3000/month by now).
  • In 2017 during the Sears saga, members of the PC party voted 84% to adopt a policy to protect pensions – which the party promised in The People’s Guarantee.
  • The People’s Guarantee departed with former leader Patrick Brown. 
  • Although new leader Doug Ford promises to “stick up” for the little guy and protect the taxpayer, his party’s position on pension issues is weak. Specifically on pensions, the PCs provided the following:

 

“Improving pension security for Ontario workers is a priority Doug Ford and the Ontario PCs.  We will work with the federal government and public and private sector pension plans, among other stakeholders, to review all options available to provide protection beyond the current Pension Benefits Guarantee Fund (PGBF).  For a year, Kathleen Wynne stood idle when it came to the Sears pensioners.  Now, only in the face of an election have they agreed to retroactively apply PGBF changes to assist them.  We believe it’s time the government stopped playing politics with the hopes and emotions of pensioners.  We are determined to ensure that what has happened to the Sears pensioners is not repeated.”

 

However, the PC party of Ontario statement fails pensioners in that:

  • It promises only a “review” – nothing else;
  • It appears to rule out improvements to current pension insurance (PBGF); 
  • Its review relies upon the federal government and diverts responsibility.  The Ontario Government already has the ability to implement the necessary improvements to funding requirements and pension insurance;
  • It specifically promises to consult with plan sponsors (whose interests often oppose those of pensioners) without mentioning specific consultations with pensioners or pensioner organizations;
  • It ignores a specific request to consider the CFP’s “win-win”, no-cost-to-taxpayers pension insurance proposal

 

 

The NDP party of Ontario 

 

  • During debates in the Ontario Legislature on the Wynne government legislation, NDP MPPs forcefully advocated in favour of pension security.
  • The NDP platform promises to “increase the Pension Benefit Guarantee Fund guaranteed amount to $3,000 per month indexed to inflation,”
  • While that guaranteed amount is not sufficient to provide 100% pension security, it is a step in the right direction and it uses an appropriate means - pension insurance funded by plan sponsors not the taxpayer.
  • Of the major political parties, the NDP’s position and platform appear to promise the most progress for pension security.

For Questions to ask your candidates please click here



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