Wilson Continues His Fight for Pensions of Public Sector Employees Affected by Past Public Sector Divestments
(October 3, 2013) Today, Simcoe-Grey MPP Jim Wilson rose in the Legislature to once again question the Minister of Finance on the Liberal government’s continual delays in creating regulations that would allow for the transfer of pension assets for thousands of public sector employees affected by past public sector divestments. Wilson asked the government the same question two weeks ago, but the Minister refused to answer.
“Minister, your response two weeks ago did not answer my question and was some general nonsense about pensions, retirement planning and what your government was doing. Stuff we already knew,” said Wilson. “I’m not sure if then you simply couldn’t answer my question or what the problem was, but thousands of public sector employees want and deserve an answer ... why is it taking your government so long to fix this injustice?”
The Minister’s response was the same response his predecessor gave three years ago saying that the regulations would be presented shortly.
Wilson shot back questioning the Minister on the amount of time it was taking the government to resolve the issue as regulations are usually tabled within months of a passing bill.
Wilson has been working on this issue for years. By teaming up with local paramedics, he was successful in pushing the government to enact enabling legislation that became law in 2010. The legislation fixes a barrier that forbids the transfer of pension assets after certain public sector employees had their pensions split when the government transferred the responsibility of these specific services to upper tier municipalities. Despite the legislative fix three years ago, the government has yet to introduce the regulations to make it happen.
Today was the 14th time Wilson has raised the issue in the Legislature.
You can read the Hansard of Mr. Wilson’s full remarks below,
Mr. Jim Wilson: My question is to the Minister of Finance. Minister, on September 18, I asked you in question period what the government is doing to resolve an outstanding split pension issue that has been unresolved for years concerning public sector employees that have been affected by past public sector divestments. Your response two weeks ago did not answer my question and was some general nonsense about pensions in general, retirement planning and what your government was doing, all stuff we already knew.
I’m not sure if then you couldn’t answer my question or what the problem was, but thousands of public sector employees wanted and deserve an answer.
Minister, again today, I’ll ask you the same question: What is your government doing to help thousands of paramedics, thousands of MPAC employees and thousands of other public sector workers who are affected by the split pension issue? And why is it taking your government so long to fix this injustice?
Hon. Charles Sousa: I appreciate the question and I appreciate the concern the member opposite has in regards to pension and reform and the benefits necessary to protect workers, as well as employers. That’s why we’ve taken initial steps, and they’re outlined in our budget as well, around enhancement to CPP, for example. We recognize that that’s a broad-based initiative to help our workers in Ontario. We also included PRPPs, a pooled registered retirement plan, to help those who aren’t saving.
But to the point that the member opposite requests, we recognize that regulations are coming soon in the fall. We will continue to do our utmost to try to resolve issues going forward.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?
Mr. Jim Wilson: Back to the minister, I really don’t think you give a damn at all about these people. I mean—
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): I would ask the member to withdraw.
Mr. Jim Wilson: I withdraw, Mr. Speaker.
Minister, I don’t understand. I’ve been at this issue for five years. Thousands of public sector employees are starting to retire. Their employer changed, through no fault of their own, because ambulance services moved to upper tier government from hospital-based services. MPAC employees used to be property assessment people in your ministry, or the Ministry of Revenue, and they moved to MPAC, and yet their pensions adversely didn’t follow them and they’re adversely affected by this. Many of them will be out thousands and thousands of dollars that they paid for. This doesn’t cost you money; this is their money.
Now I know the unions run the pensions. Are they running this government on this issue too because they don’t want to take the time to transfer the money to the other pension plans run by other unions? I have learned over time, these unions don’t get along. Are you in the unions’ pockets again—
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you. Stop the clock. Before any other members get themselves into water that they don’t want to be in, I’m going to just tell the member that I’m not happy with his last part and that I would hope that we would race to the top and not to the bottom with the kinds of comments that I’m hearing. I’m going to offer the minister an opportunity to answer the question.
Hon. Charles Sousa: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It’s unfortunate that the premise of the question now is about bashing labour and bashing the very people that are hard-working Ontarians in our province, who are in need of support with their pensions, and that’s what we’re doing.
Many public sector employees whose pensions are affected by past government-initiated restructuring want consolidation with their split pension entitlements in a single plan. We get that. We’ve made reforms to the Pension Benefits Act. We’ve taken regulatory provisions that are necessary to ??see to before those reforms are implemented. We posted draft regulations in February 2013, consulted up until April 15, 2013. On July 12, 2000, we posted a draft regulations on regulatory registry regarding asset transfers and we’ve made consultations that closed in September.
So after commentary received and appropriate changes are made, both regulations will be presented to cabinet and that will happen in the fall of this year.