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Proposed Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP)

Gord Brock’s Commentary (Updated September 2015)

You may be aware of the Provincial Government Proposal to establish a mandatory Ontario Retirement Pension Plan that almost all employers and employees would have to participate.  Bill C56 received Royal Assent May 5, 2015. The new plan is to commence January 2017 with larger employers and be fully implemented January 2020 with pensions payable beginning in 2022. There are numerous discussions taking place between Government officials, representatives from my professional associations as well as various Industry representatives as the detailed rules and regulations are being developed. Some of these discussions have already led to some changes to the original announcement-but there are still a number of issues which must be addressed-many of which are too complex for this brief commentary.

At this point it is not possible to predict what the final version will look like. I made some preliminary calculations and based on the government’s original numbers I determined that the projected rate of return on the pension investments would have to be about 2% -3% to fund the promised benefit-hardly an attractive number. There are a number of flaws (in my opinion) with the original broadly based proposal. One such flaw is that the investments would all be in Ontario—in fact the proposal looks very much like a methodology to create a source of low cost capital for the Provincial Government.

There would be mandated employee contributions through payroll deduction and the contributions would have to be matched by the employer. Each would be required to contribute 1.9% of salary (up to $90,000 salary).

It was originally proposed that employers already providing a ‘comparable’ pension plan would not have to participate in the new Provincial Plan. The question, of course, is what would qualify as a ‘comparable’ plan.  Through initial follow up discussions it had been learned that the Province was considering only Defined Benefit Plans as being ‘comparable’.  Only very large employers (and the Government itself) provide Defined Benefit Plans and many large employers have replaced their Defined Benefit Plans with Defined Contribution Plans. (Defined Benefit Plans typically become very expensive to fund whereas Defined Contribution Plans have a specific and defined cost such as 5% of salary.)

The August 11th government announcement included Defined Contribution Pension Plans as being ‘comparable’ plans if they required at least 8% contributions per annum (with at least 4% being Employer contributions). It also clarified that a pension could be paid out as early as age 60 and no later than age 70.  There have been no firm details provided regarding survivor benefits (If a 25 year old begins contributing and s/he dies either before or after retirement what benefit, if any, is there for the Estate or surviving spouse?).

Employers who already have a Group RRSP (with or without matching contributions) and Defined Contribution Pension Plans (with less than 8% contributions) in place will be forced to rethink their Retirement Benefit plan arrangements for the their employees.  Will the Employer be willing to contribute an additional 1.9% of salary to the new Ontario Retirement Pension Plan in addition to that already being contributed?  And how will the employees respond? They will have to have the additional 1.9% deducted from their salary (as will all employees other than those already in Defined Benefit Plans).

This is a complex area and it is impossible to predict the final outcome.  As the implementation date approaches we will be working with our clients with the hope that we will be able to establish a ‘comparable’ plan which would provide significantly better benefits and control for the employees  I would suggest it being premature to take steps today as much can change over the next number of months..


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