The Report of the Ontario Expert Commission on Pensions has been
released by the Ontario Minister of Finance. The Expert Commission
was established with a mandate to review the system of occupational
pensions in Ontario, with a particular focus on defined benefit
pension plans. Ultimately, the work of the Expert Commission may
lead to changes to the Ontario Pension Benefits Act, which
has not been substantially revised since its reform nearly 20 years
A discussion paper, released in February 2007, set out the major
themes the Expert Commission intended to explore, which included
pension funding, regulating the pension system, the role of defined
benefit pension plans and the risks and attractions thereof, as
well as changes to pension plans as a result of changes in the
employment relationship, such as pension plan wind-ups, mergers,
and insolvency. This Report is a result of public consultations
with stakeholders on the discussion paper, and an extensive
The following are some highlights of the Report.
Allow target benefit plans;
Investigate expanding the Canada Pension Plan or implementing a
Establish a specialized Pension Regulator, Pension Champion and
Allow multi-employer and jointly sponsored pension plans to be
funded on a going concern basis;
Single employer pension plans should continue to be funded on a
going concern and solvency basis, and should be funded 105%, but
should be allowed, if at a funding level of 95% or higher, to have
a longer amortization period;
The Pension Benefits Guarantee Fund should guarantee benefits
up to $2 500 monthly, and should be administered by an
arm's-length entity and the entire entity should be reviewed
within five years;
Surplus distribution should be done based on the plan
documentation, where clear, and if not clear, upon agreement, and
if no agreement is forthcoming, by reference to the new Pension
Implement immediate vesting;
Mandatory plan provisions dealing with indexation, and the
ability for the government to require indexation in the event of an
inflation emergency; and
Member, union, and retiree involvement in pension plans should
be encouraged and increased, including through the establishment of
mandatory pension advisory committees.
The Report will be the subject of much discussion within the
pension community and it remains to be seen what, if any,
recommendations the government will consider. A written comment
period will extend until February 27, 2009. The Report is only the
first step for pension reform in Ontario, but, as the spate of
Expert Commissions in other provinces (Alberta, British Columbia
and Nova Scotia) has proved, what happens with the Report will be
closely watched across the country.
Unfortunately, reasonable accommodation for employees in the workplace continues to be the source of significant litigation and even today we continue to see outrageous examples of employers behaving badly.
A former teacher at Bodwell High School has learned a valuable lesson from the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal— it is not discriminatory for an employer to offer child-related benefits to only employees with children.
We are now beginning to see reported cases involving charges and subsequent fines laid against employers for failing to provide information, instruction and supervision to protect a worker from workplace violence.
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