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Harper government tries to derail Wynne pension plan

Federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver says Ottawa won't provide administrative support for retirement scheme.
July 16, 2015
By Robert Benzie

With an election looming, the federal Conservatives have fired a salvo at Ontario’s Liberal government in a bid to derail Premier Kathleen Wynne’s new provincial pension plan.

In a letter leaked to the media before it was sent to Queen’s Park, federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver said Ottawa won’t provide administrative support for the retirement scheme because the Tories disagree with it.

Ontario’s proposed pension plan would “take money from workers and their families, kill jobs and damage the economy,” Oliver, a Toronto MP, wrote with an eye toward the Oct. 19 election.

“For these reasons, we will not assist the Ontario government in the implementation of the ORPP,” he said, referring to the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan, Wynne’s cornerstone election promise in the June 2014 campaign.

“Administration of the ORPP will be the sole responsibility of the Ontario government, including the collection of contributions and any required information.”

Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa said it was “incredibly disappointing that the federal government is refusing to recognize the need for people to achieve a secure retirement future.”

“The ORPP is a central part of our government’s platform that is supported by a majority mandate from Ontarians,” Sousa said in a statement Thursday.

“Our proposal to use existing infrastructure would have ensured cost-effective delivery of the ORPP, while minimizing compliance costs for employers,” he said, noting the Tories’ roadblock will cost the public money.

“Like other arrangements between the federal and provincial governments, our expectation was to enter into a service agreement with the CRA or Service Canada - something that would have tremendous advantages for businesses, and employees,” Sousa said.

“As well, Ontario offered to compensate the federal government for any additional costs through a fee-for-service agreement,” he said.

“The federal government’s refusal to work with Ontario puts politics ahead of practicality. It is especially disappointing given that co-operation would have resulted in lower costs to business.”

Sousa stressed the ORPP is “moving forward” regardless of Ottawa’s brinkmanship.

Wynne pitched the Ontario scheme because Prime Minister Stephen Harper refused to beef up the Canada Pension Plan, which pays out a maximum benefit of little more than $12,000 annually.