The Ontario government has introduced Bill 151, the Strengthening and Improving
Government Act, 2013, which passed first reading on December 11,
2013. Bill 151 is not yet law, but if it comes into force, it will
amend several statutes including the Pension Benefits Act (PBA).
The amendments to the PBA include a response to the decision of the
Ontario Court of Appeal in Carrigan v. Carrigan, which held that
a PBA "common law" spouse was not entitled to a
pre-retirement death benefit under section 48 of the PBA if the
deceased pension plan member had, on his or her date of death, a
legally married spouse from whom he or she was living separate and
If Bill 151 comes into force, as currently drafted, section 44
of the PBA regarding joint and survivor pensions and section 48 of
the PBA regarding pre-retirement death benefits will be amended to
clarify how the definition of "spouse" in subsection 1(1)
of the PBA applies in those provisions for the purpose of
determining eligibility for benefits. If the amendments come into
force, they would effectively reverse the Court's
interpretation of section 48 of the PBA in Carrigan. Bill 151 also
contains a discharge for administrators who made payments in
specified circumstances before the amendments come into force (and
in the case of pre-retirement death benefits, the discharge is
granted to administrators who made payments before October 31,
Bill 151 also contains technical amendments to section 80.1 of
the PBA in respect of the transfer of assets between pension plans
when a business has previously been sold.
Before becoming law, Bill 151 must still pass second and third
reading in the legislative assembly, and receive Royal Assent.
Further, the amendments to the PBA contained in Bill 151 would only
come into force on proclamation. The legislative assembly adjourned
at the end of business on December 12 and is scheduled to return on
February 18, 2014.
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