Ontario appears to be killing its pension plan slowly after CPP deal

TORONTO – Ontario’s Liberal government appears to be killing its now-redundant pension plan slowly.

Premier Kathleen Wynne had been pushing for years for an enhancement to the Canada Pension Plan, but established a made-in-Ontario solution when it appeared that wouldn’t happen under the previous federal government.

The country’s finance ministers reached an agreement Monday to enhance CPP, meaning the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan, which was to start in 2018, is no longer needed.

But 50 staff members of the administration corporation had already been working to set up the framework, and the minister responsible for the file said Wednesday there is no timeline for winding down the ORPP.

“There are a lot of people there so my team is having conversations with people around the table, so we’re talking about the board, we’re talking about the ORPP management in terms of the corporation about the best paths forward and how we proceed in the next little while,” said Indira Naidoo-Harris, the associate minister of finance.

Neither she, nor the finance minister, nor the ORPP Administration Corporation would say how much would have to be paid in severances.

Saad Rafi, who was in charge of the Pan Am Games, was appointed as CEO in January with a salary of $525,000.

Employees are still being paid, said Finance Minister Charles Sousa.

“There’s contracts and so forth out there, right, so we have to maintain that,” he said. “All those issues will come out in short order after we make the final decisions with regards to the ORPP and the CPP enhancement.”

Provinces will have until July 15 to officially sign on to the agreement before it becomes formalized.

The government has not yet said how much it has spent so far setting up the now-defunct ORPP, but expenditure estimates from the Ministry of Finance show that $14 million had been earmarked for 2015-16. Just $1.5 million in spending was projected for 2016-17 when the estimates were submitted in March, but the figures also show a $240-million loan to the corporation had been planned.

Neala Barton, the ORPP corporation’s senior vice-president of communications, said that until this week, staff worked under the assumption that the ORPP would go ahead. They were to start verifying which businesses would be enrolled in the plan — companies with plans deemed comparable were exempt — in October.

“There was significant up-front work needed in order to achieve this — including the hiring of staff with pension expertise who could work with payroll providers and businesses, building an online tool for businesses to determine their ORPP participation, the creation of a corporate website, the development of content to give businesses more information about their obligations, etc.,” Barton said in a statement.

The corporation paused all implementation activity Tuesday morning, she said.

“Until ORPP AC receives further direction from its board of directors, it is too soon to discuss the future of ORPP AC staff,” Barton said.