Canadian Government Seeks Pension Reform Input

May 27, 2005 ( - Mirroring ongoing US discussions over proposed defined benefit pension reforms, the Canadian government has kicked off a review of that country's pension system and has asked the public to join the discussion online.

In a Web announcement posted Thursday, Canadian officials said they would accept public input via e-mail or regular mail until September 15 on a series of pension issues such as how long a company can take to eliminate pension fund shortfalls, how to split up surpluses, what information must be shared with workers, and how to fund future plans

The government review will focus on the 428 defined-benefit plans registered under the Canadian Pension Benefits Standards Act, which cover almost 500,000 Canadians and have combined assets of about $89 billion, the Canadian Press reported.

The government said, in  materials posted on the Web, that it particularly wanted opinions on issues such as:

  • Do current funding rules create obstacles to building up surpluses?
  • Do rules governing the distribution of surpluses need improvement?
  • Should alternative funding vehicles, such as letters of credit, be allowed to help fund deficits?
  • Should more companies be allowed longer periods to pay down deficits?
  • Should plan sponsors be required to give employees more information about their financial condition, funding decisions and whether they’ve not made certain pension contributions?

“In recent years, there have been growing concerns that defined benefit pension plans have had to deal with adverse market conditions, funding deficits, legal rulings creating uncertainty, some lack of clarity regarding pension rights under insolvency and questions regarding the impact of pension accounting rules,” officials wrote in the government’s online consultation paper. “Experts say this is creating incentives to shift from defined benefit to defined contribution pension plans, which in general, shifts much of the risk of financing retirement income from the plan sponsor to the plan member.”

Information about US pension reform proposals from the Bush Administration is  here .