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True cost of ORPP remains unknown: Wilson

(July 5, 2016) It was good news recently when the Wynne Liberals said they are abandoning the flawed Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP) in favour of an enhanced Canada Pension Plan (CPP).

Helping people save for retirement is a noble goal. That's why the Ontario PC caucus advocated for months that any retirement savings enhancement should be done through the CPP rather than the job-killing ORPP payroll tax.

Despite having the opportunity to work with her federal and provincial partners on CPP enhancement since the federal election, Premier Kathleen Wynne needlessly plowed ahead with her ORPP bureaucracy at the cost of close to $20-million.

Christine Van Gey, a director with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, wrote recently about the money being wasted on the ORPP.

In a June 29 guest column published by The Toronto Sun, she notes Ontarians are, "still in the dark about what the cancelled plan will cost them."

That's true, despite the fact that several days earlier the Ontario PC Party called on the Liberals to disclose the costs.

"Presumably the government will need to admit that they spent money – and continue to spend money today – on the 50 staff members at the ORPP Administrative Corporation. That includes the $525,000 salary of former Pan Am Games CEO Saad Rafi, as well as a 25 percent discretionary bonus," Van Geyn writes in her Toronto Sun piece.

Other unknown costs include what was spent advertising the ORPP.

"Premier Wynne spent almost $1.7-million advertising the plan in the months leading up to the federal election, and more ads have since been created and have continued to run," Van Geyn notes.

When the government does decide to release the figures on its wasteful spending, it's not clear if this will include details about how many public servants worked on setting up the ORPP over the last two-plus years.

Van Geyn raises this point in her column and asks, "Will the cost of the cancelled ORPP include the creation of a new portfolio for an Associate Minister of Finance for the ORPP, and her new $165,750 salary? And what about the accompanying staff for that minister's office?"

Getting this Liberal government to come clear on the money it spends is like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall.

Van Geyn states the only way "taxpayers will know how much of their money was wasted on this unnecessary, badly designed, and heavily staffed and advertised boondoggle will be if the Auditor General looks into the matter."

She's right about that.

And it will probably be some time before the full cost becomes public knowledge.

The Liberals will drag their feet when it comes to releasing this information and try to manage public perception.

But the fact is taxpayers deserve to know how much of their money was spent by this Liberal government.

Governing is about being accountable and yet the Liberals seem to forget that.

As Van Geyn noted it was the Auditor General who showed "the Pan Am Games went over budget by $342-million, even though the government had announced that the games had been under budget..."

You can bet we'll keep on the Liberals to make a full and honest disclosure about how much money they've wasted on the ORPP. Just don't expect to get a straight answer from Premier Wynne anytime soon.

Jim Wilson is the Progressive Conservative MPP for Simcoe-Grey.

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