Public Policy and the Actuarial Voice

Bernard Morency

By Bernard Morency, FCIA

The CIA Strategic Plan 2017–2019 identifies influencing public policy as one of the CIA’s key goals. To fulfil this goal, the Institute regularly issues public statements, including responses to government, organizations, and regulatory agency consultations. These are considered level-1 public statements. Level-2 statements are those where the CIA is being proactive, to assess and take a position on an issue that it considers to be in the public interest.

Formerly known as the Public Positions Committee, the Public Statements Committee (PSC) identifies, reviews, and approves all public statements the Institute makes. Guided by the process outlined in 2017’s Policy on the Approval of Public Statements, members of the PSC  provide focused comments with a particular eye on our mission (i.e., serving the public interest), consistency with prior submissions, and clarity. The CIA President is also part of the approval process.

A Variety of Topics

The last few months have been particularly busy. Indeed, since mid-November 2017, the PSC has reviewed 13 level-1 public statements. These include submissions on defined benefit (DB) pension funding to Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Manitoba, four to the International Actuarial Association on revisions to Insurance Core Principles (ICPs) as well as disclosure of actuarial obligations of social security systems, and other topics such as Bill 141 in Québec, corporate governance guidelines to the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI), and discount rate guidance to the Public Sector Accounting Board.

A Collaborative Effort

With the collaboration of Head Office, the PSC keeps a record of all prior submissions as well as those currently underway. When the PSC learns about a submission opportunity, it appoints a drafting team to create a draft statement. This group is made up of members with subject-matter expertise, who know the material and represent an appropriate balance of viewpoints and local expertise when needed.

When possible, we turn to the CIA’s practice committees and councils for help in selecting a drafting team. For example, for our many submissions on pension-related matters, we asked the Pension Advisory Committee (PAC) and/or the Committee on Pension Plan Financial Reporting (PPFRC) for volunteers or recommendations on who should join the drafting team.

When appropriate, we may appoint an existing committee as the drafting team itself. For instance, the ERM Practice Committee prepared the CIA’s submission to OSFI on corporate governance guidelines. Another consideration is geographic location. For the submission to Manitoba on the Pension Benefits Act review, we asked practitioners from that province to prepare the submission.

Once a drafting entity completes a draft submission, three to five members of the PSC form an authorizing committee (AC). The draft submission is sent to all members of the PSC, who send their comments to the AC, which then meets and either approves the submission as is, provides comments to the drafting entity which decides on final content, or asks the drafting entity to revise the draft and resubmit it for approval.

Head Office staff edit and format the final draft and submit it to the organization that requested the feedback. Head Office then translates the submission, posts it on the website in French and English, and notifies members in the weekly announcements.

Level-2 Public Statements

A level-2 public statement requires member input and Board ratification prior to its release. Three single topic task forces (STTF) are currently developing public statements on climate change (Catherine Jacques-Brissette and Gaetano Geretto, co-champions), retirement age (Joe Nunes and Jacques Tremblay, co-champions), and risk classification (Emile Elefteriadis and Matthew Buchalter, co-champions). This type of document is a first for us and we are working hard to make them a success.

All three statements have gone through the first stage of member consultation. Other stages can include a webcast, written feedback, and presentation of the public statement at an actuarial or town hall meeting. We expect to release the next draft of each statement, for additional member feedback, between now and the end of the year. Eventually, the PSC will appoint five PSC members to serve on the AC for each statement.

Increased Awareness of the Actuarial Voice

Perhaps as a result of previous CIA submissions, organizations are now asking for the CIA’s input on a variety of topics. The media has also noticed our recent submissions and published stories about them.

When asked, we decide to provide comments or not, based on how the issue relates to our membership and expertise and our ability, given available resources and time, to prepare a submission that will serve the public interest and help us fulfil our strategic goal of influencing public policy.

I will make a more detailed report at our upcoming Annual Meeting in June. Do not hesitate to reach out to tell us what you think and how we could improve the process.

Bernard Morency, FCIA, is Chair of the Public Statements Committee.

Canadian Institute of Actuaries/Institut canadien des actuaires