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Wynne to take made-in-Ontario pension plan to spring-time election

The Toronto Star reports, “Premier Kathleen Wynne says she is determined to take a made-in-Ontario pension plan to the voters come the next election. …While details at this point are sketchy at best, Wynne said a plan for a mandatory provincial pension will be released in the spring. …Vague plans for the provincial pension started to gather momentum earlier this week when federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty slammed the door on calls from the provinces to increase the annual CPP benefits. The maximum now is $12,000 a year but the average payment is $7,000 a year.”

“Wynne told reporters Wednesday that the provincial government really has no choice now that Ottawa has said no to improving the Canada Pension Plan. …Wynne told the news conference that talk of an Ontario specific pension plan is ‘not a bluff’ to push the federal Conservative government into sweetening CPP benefits, but added her preference is that the federal government take the initiative.”

The Globe and Mail adds, “Ms. Wynne vowed Wednesday to unveil a provincial program this spring. It would come around the same time as a budget that the opposition parties are expected to vote down, toppling the minority Liberal government and triggering an election.”

“Exactly how the plan will work is still being sorted out. Ms. Wynne and Finance Minister Charles Sousa are meeting with academics, organized labour and business groups to gather advice on constructing the pension fund. Ms. Wynne said workers will be automatically enrolled in the plan, but it might contain an opt-out option for people who want to instead save their money privately. The plan would be targeted at middle-income earners, and would entail workers and companies paying a few per cent more on top of CPP premiums in exchange for higher payouts in retirement.”

“Quebec and Saskatchewan already have provincial pension plans of their own.”

And Toronto Star columnist Thomas Walkom notes, “The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and the Ontario Municipal Employees’ Retirement System are already world-class pension funds, even though both serve only a portion of the provincial workforce. An Ontario Pension Plan modelled on the CPP would be even bigger.”

While the Council of Canadians needs to look into the proposed Ontario Pension Plan more closely, we have supported – along with the Canadian Labour Congress and the Canadian Union of Public Employees – increased pension benefits to ensure fewer seniors are living in poverty.

We have also been critical of Canada Pension Plan investments in private water through Anglian Water in the United Kingdom, in the tar sands through Laricina Energy Ltd., and in destructive mining (and human rights abuses) through Goldcorp and its Marlin mine in Guatemala. We have also highlighted our concerns with the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan’s investment in private water in Chile and in England.

It is our hope that if an Ontario Pension Plan proceeds that it has the appropriate ethical screens in place to prohibit these types of ‘investments’, that sufficient pressure may be created with the Ontario plan so that the CPP and OTPP would be encouraged to divest from these controversial and harmful pursuits, or even that Ontario’s share of the CPP fund would not be allowed to be channeled into such investments.

Further reading

Flaherty set to kill pension reform at Dec. 15-16 meeting
Council calls for increased pension benefits as finance ministers meet at Meech Lake
Preparing for the fight for pensions in Canada