QUEEN’S PARK – With an open letter to Liberal Finance Minister Charles Sousa, Hamilton East-Stoney Creek NDP MPP and Pensions critic Paul Miller is demanding the Liberal government scrap its latest pension scheme – one that will put pensions at risk by cutting funding requirements.
The Wynne Liberals are changing the law so that pension plans can be allowed to dwindle to 85 per cent solvency, instead of 100 per cent. That means when a company goes out of business, the pensions owed to current and former employees won’t be fully paid out.
“Dropping pension solvency funding targets means workers will have even less certainty that their pensions will be there when they retire.” said Miller. “Reducing the solvency funding target by 15% erodes this important pension protection and virtually ensures tragedies like Nortel, US Steel and Sears will be even more painful in the future.”
Miller said that a stroke of the premier’s pen at Queen’s Park could spell long-term consequences for those that have worked to earn those pensions.
“For the sake of pensioners, do not reduce pension solvency funding requirements. Doing so would be a slap in the face to pensioners who have worked their whole life for their pension and deserve to receive the benefits they were promised.” said Miller. “Why is this government bent on moving our pension legislation in the wrong direction, putting retirees at risk?”
Miller’s letter calls on the Liberal Finance Minister to remove Schedule 33 from Bill 177, and give pensioners a say in the future of their plans. Miller said any changes to pension requirements should be brought forward as a separate piece of legislation – not buried in the omnibus budget bill.
“The Liberal government is forcing changes through the legislation that will hurt pensioners and their families — this is simply wrong. It’s time for Kathleen Wynne and her Minister of Finance to do the right thing and give pensioners a say in any legislation that impacts their future.”
Separating the pensions section from the budget bill would also allow for further debate on expansion of the Pension Benefits Guarantee Fund (PBGF). The PBGF was a backup fund developed to support Ontario pensioners who were victim of failing pension plans. If an applicable pension plan was terminated, the PBGF would guarantee a pensioner up to $1,000 a month in coverage – and Miller said the government’s weak expansion to merely $1,500 per month is not enough to support pensioners abandoned by failed pension plans.