Finance Minister Greg Sorbara announced in a statement posted on a government Web site that the new panel will be chaired by academic and labor law expert Harry Arthurs. The group will hold hearings around Ontario and is expected to report back in the summer of 2008.
“Ontarians are entitled to pension legislation that is fair and up to date,” Sorbara said. “This review will ensure that plan members and pensioners know that their contributions are protected by a modern set of rules and that Ontario remains a competitive place to do business.”
According to the government announcement, the review will focus on needed updates to the province’sPension Benefits Act, which has not been substantially updated since 1986, Specifically, the government said, the panel would look at:
- the importance of maintaining and encouraging the system of defined benefit pension plans in Ontario;
- the importance of maintaining the affordability of defined benefit pension plans for both members and sponsors;
- the importance of pension plans in supporting a competitive economy;
- the need to safeguard the security of pension benefits;
- the need to balance the rights and obligations of employers, plan members and pensioners; and
- the impact of demographics and the changing nature of the workforce on the provision of employment pensions.
Two trade groups publicly applauded the government’s move. “We’re very happy to see the creation of this expert commission,” said Mark Rowbotham, Chair of the Pensions and Benefits Section of the Ontario Bar Association. “Like many in the pension community, we welcome the opportunity to provide our views and input, and we look forward to making our presentation to the panel.”
Also, the Association of Canadian Pension Management (ACPM) said it was also pleased with the decision to set up the study commission.
“It is a clear indication that the government recognizes the importance of defined benefit pension plans, and the importance of having clear legislation that will allow pension plans to remain viable and sustainable. The ACPM commends the government on this initiative and we will support the work of this commission in any way we can,” Scott Perkin, ACPM president, said in a statement.