Pension Reform: the status quo is not an option

The public pension consultations chaired by Ted Menzies which CARP attended on March 20th confirmed our suspicions: the clamour for change is welling up on the Canadian pension landscape. The market collapse has given the campaign for pension reform a new sense of urgency.

People concerned about our retirement security can take comfort in the fact that the policy makers are now faced with the obligation to recognize the need for broad sweeping changes. Well before the crisis hit, Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia and Nova Scotia had established panels to consider pension reform, but they garnered fairly limited interest at the time. In January, the federal government issued a consultation paper asking for feedback on the Pension Benefits Standards Act of 1985. This was also the subject of the cross-country consultations chaired by MP and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, Ted Menzies. Despite being scheduled for a private expert stakeholder presentation together with the Canadian Federation of Pensioners in the afternoon, Susan Eng, CARP VP of Advocacy also attended the public presentations held in the morning at the Royal York hotel in Toronto.

A room that might have held some twenty people a few years ago was packed with pensioners, retiree groups, labour unions, employer’s groups, industry professionals and media. Practically all those present were saying the same thing: the focus of the consultations was too narrow. Pension Reform can longer be the quiet reserve of pension experts, to the exclusion of those most affected and least able to influence the management of their pension savings. Also surprising was the broad support for a form of Universal Pension Plan, please see articles by Bernard Dussault and James Pierlot as well as an report on the CAW’s presentation to the panel.

Today’s retirees will no longer accept the status quo. At such a critical time in Canada’s history it is time to rethink our retirement income system and millions of Canadians are looking to all levels of government for bold leadership to ensure that protection of their retirement security remains a top public policy priority.

CARP hosted a meeting with Dan Braniff Founder of the Common Front for Retirement Security and Chair of CARP’s Georgian Bay Chapter, Duane Frerichs, spokesman of Air Canada Pionairs, Scott Perkin, President and Brian Hocking, CEP of the Association for Canadian Pension Management as well as Bernard Dussault, Former CPP Chief Actuary and Senior Research and Communications Officer of the Federal Superannuates National Association (FSNA) L’Association nationale des retraités fédéraux.

The joint written CARP/CFRS submission is available here (link) and an executive summary is available here. During our presentation we stressed the need for immediate action to protect retirement security. All levels of government need to work in tandem to:

Protect pension plan members, especially against the market downturns by: rebalancing the rights and powers of the employers and plan members and retirees, providing greater transparency, protecting surpluses, disallowing contribution holidays, requiring contingency funding and protection in case of a pension plan sponsor’s bankruptcy and mandating stronger governance role for plan members and retirees.