January 30, 2009
The Honorouble Dwight Duncan
Minister of Finance
7 Queen's Park Cres, 7th Floor, Frost Bldg. South
Toronto, ON M7A 1Y7
Dear Mr. Duncan:
We were pleased to participate in the Expert Commission on Pensions and have now had a chance to review its contents.
We believe this to be a serious and good report that merits serious action this year. Everyone is rightly focused this year in trying to protect the jobs of working people. The problems faced by the companies they work for have had an equally devastating effect on their pension plans that will affect many workers.
Both of us, from personal experience, understand what happens when one's former employer closes the plant you worked in. The result is devastating for both active and retired members of the local. Retirees may be even more affected by plant closures and bankruptcies because of the wait to get their pension approved by the government support plan. When a plant declares bankruptcy, the age of the person may also prevent them from finding employment.
Harry Arthurs, in his report, put a lot of emphasis on creating pension plans with a large capital base that were not dependent on one employer. We believe that Quebec and Canada Pension Plans provide the best vehicle to do this. We do not seek to have it replace all voluntary plans but rather would like to see its coverage gradually expand to provide up to 50% of the contributable earnings. Such a move will not only ease the demands on negotiated plans but also provide a portable plan, a fact especially important given the fact that fewer and fewer workers have the option of working for one employer for their working lives.
This change will not happen immediately but we believe it to be important that the Ontario government backed by all parties in the legislature seek to make this a national goal.
There are actions that the government can take in the short run. Among them is to give retirees a say in what happens when their pension funds are being discussed. Harry Arthurs wrote:
"Retirees should no longer be referred to as 'former members' of plans, but rather as 'retired members;' they should be given effective access to all information available to active members; and they should be eligible to participate in any plan governance process in which active members may participate."
There are many points raised in the report which we would welcome the opportunity to speak to when the government moves forward. Our concerns on these issues are governed less by how they will affect us personally than how they will affect our children and in turn their children.
We very much concur with the sentiment expressed by Harry Arthurs when at the end of his report, he observed that "delay must be avoided if at all possible. The time for moving ahead is now." We trust you feel the same way.
Original signed by
Honorouble Dalton McGuinty, Premier
John Tory, Leader, Progressive Conservative Party
Howard Hampton, Leader, New Democratic Party
Gerry Martiniuk, Seniors Critic, Progressive Conservative Party
France Gelinas, Seniors Critic, New Democratic Party
Paul Miller, Pensions Critic, New Democratic Party