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June 2016
 
 

Expansion of Public Pension Plans

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By Les Dandridge

Early this year, the Pension Advisory Committee (PAC), led by Michel St-Germain, started work on a new CIA public position. The overall goal was to put together a document that would help federal, provincial, and territorial governments focus their thinking on critical issues around developing a national, targeted, and modest increase in Canada/Québec Pension Plan (C/QPP) benefits. The reason was simple: the finance ministers of these governments had been challenged by federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau to make a modest CPP benefit increase happen.

His challenge included a very speedy timeline. He wanted the ministers to do their homework and be ready to review substantive options at their June 2016 meeting, with a goal of reaching agreement on a path forward at their December 2016 meeting. What happened at their June 20 meeting is past surprising. Eight provinces came to an agreement, with Manitoba needing a bit more time to review the options, due to that province’s recent election. The door is open to Manitoba joining the agreement. Québec was aligned on many aspects for the QPP, but a couple of issues require consultation and more review.

Unique Opportunity

The PAC felt that the CIA had a unique opportunity to reach out to the ministers with the best independent and objective thinking by seasoned pension actuaries applied directly to their task. In other words, create a public position dedicated to the topic and based on the CIA’s public position from November 2015, A Call to Timely Action: Meeting the Needs of Canada’s Future Retirees. Their thinking included having the document ready for distribution a month before the next meeting of the ministers scheduled for mid-June.

As well, the PAC was interested in meeting with ministers and their staff members to dig into some of the complex and interrelated aspects of what seems to be a simple objective—a modest increase in C/QPP benefits. Of course, the entire environment where this change was going to happen was complicated by the steady progress of the Ontario government’s Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP).

 

Meetings with Government Officials

On May 19, the final, approved public position was distributed to the finance ministers, deputy ministers, other associations, and CIA members. The CIA offered to meet with ministers and officials to brief them on the finer points of the position. Officials of the Québec, Ontario, and federal governments took the CIA up on this offer and CIA teams met with them early in June.

The teams included CIA President Rob Stapleford, PAC Chair Michel St-Germain, PAC members Serge Charbonneau, Ian Edelist, and Jason Vary, and CIA associate director, public affairs, Pascale Belleau.

The calibre of the exchanges was very high. And they were very positive. It was obvious that a lot of work was going on behind the scenes and governments were very advanced and thoroughly prepared on the effort. Also positive was their opinion of the quality and helpfulness of the CIA position.

Webcasts and Press Release

On June 8, the CIA also offered two free webcasts on the position. Rob Stapleford and Michel St-Germain hosted the English webcast and Michel St-Germain and Serge Charbonneau presented the French version (note you must log in to view the archived webcasts). Over 500 members attended the webcasts, indicating a very high level of interest in the position and what the profession was putting before governments. Time ran out with the English webcast and a number of questions were not answered. These questions have since been addressed and are now available to members on the CIA website.

A lot of time and effort went into crafting the position and making sure that it landed in the hands of the right people. But the work didn’t end there. On June 20, the day the ministers met, the team was watching the wrap-up press conference and searching for background information on the surprising agreement the ministers hammered out, and the next day, the team put together a press release to voice the Institute’s opinion on the successful result. The team will keep an eye on what happens up to and including July 15 (the date by which the agreement needs to be ratified) and will remain available to contribute further insight to government officials over the summer.

Les Dandridge is director of communications and public affairs at the CIA.

Government Relations/Public Relations Activities at a Glance

Date

Activity

Response

May 19, 2016

CIA public position sent to federal, provincial, and territorial finance ministers and deputy ministers.

Some calls/e-mails received on details and meeting requests.

June 6, 2016

Meeting with Québec officials by Michel St-Germain, Serge Charbonneau, and Pascale Belleau

Solid meeting, positive comments on CIA document

June 7, 2016

Meeting with the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) chief actuary and staff by Rob Stapleford, Michel St-Germain, Jason Vary, and Pascale Belleau

Solid meeting, positive about the document and the fact that CIA was engaged on the topic

June 8, 2016

English and French webcasts

Over 500 attendees. Dozens of questions answered. Overall feedback on the session was that it met expectations, the content was informative, and it was time well spent.

June 9, 2016

Meeting with Ontario officials from the Premier’s office, Finance Minister’s office, and Ontario Ministry of Finance by Rob Stapleford, Michel St-Germain, Ian Edelist, and Pascale Belleau.

Productive meeting. Again, very positive about the position.

June 9, 2016

Distributed Expansion of Public Pension Plans public position to the media.

Several stories appeared in the media, especially the pension trade press (*see below).

June 21, 2016

Launch of a press release to Canadian media

*See below.

June 22, 2016

Meeting with the C.D. Howe Institute, Pension Policy Council, to discuss the recent C/QPP public position by Rob Stapleford and Michel St-Germain.

Malcolm Hamilton, Fred Vettese, Allan Shapira, Barry Gros, and Scott Clausen. Other members included David Dodge, Keith Ambachtsheer, Jennifer Rook (Ontario Ministry of Finance), and Bob Baldwin.

*Media Metrics

The CIA public position was mentioned in a number of media stories. These included the Investment ExecutiveThe Canadian Business Journal, Toronto Star, and many others. Here are a few interesting numbers (as of June 24):

  • Traditional media: 49 online mentions and a 9,500,000+ potential readership;
  • Social media: 11 tweets and a 141,000+ potential readership;
  • Online views of the press releases: 1,990 views for the June 9 release and 753 views for the June 21 press release;
  • The June 9 press release found its way onto 2071 newsfeeds while the June 21 press release was posted to 456 ; and
  • More than 50 North American websites picked up the June 21 release and posted it to their website.
 

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