July 28, 2016 3:05 pm
Updated: July 28, 2016 4:54 pm

Ontario spent $70 million to create provincial pension plan that’s not needed

Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa talks to reporters before the start of a meeting with Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau and his provincial and territorial counterparts, in Ottawa, on Monday, Dec. 21, 2015.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
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TORONTO – Ontario’s Liberal government spent $70 million to create a provincial pension plan that won’t be needed because Ottawa and the other provinces agreed to enhance the CPP.

The spending includes $3.7 million in compensation payments for employees at the corporation set up by the province to administer the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan, including more than $2 million to be split by its top six executives.

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Most of the ORPP executives were only hired in March or April, and one in June, but they will each be entitled to about $335,000 each in severance.

READ MORE: Ontario appears to be killing its pension plan slowly after CPP deal

The New Democrats called the severance payments an “insult” to people who can’t afford to retire, especially when most people knew the provincial pension plan was unlikely to get off the ground.

“Premier Kathleen Wynne and her government failed to cap executive severances in anticipation of the foreseeable outcome that CPP enhancement would make the ORPP unnecessary,” said NDP pensions critic Jennifer French.

“This is another sad example of Liberals putting the needs of their friends ahead of the needs of Ontarians.”

Documents released Thursday show the pension corporation signed a five-year, $12 million lease for two floors of a downtown Toronto office building earlier this year, and borrowed $31 million from the provincial government.

READ MORE: Ontario premier says no CPP deal if she wasn’t ‘thorn in the side’ of other premiers

The ORPPAC also spent $17.7 million on consulting services.

Finance Minister Charles Sousa said there’s another $15 million set aside for any outstanding costs for winding up the pension plan administration corporation.

Ontario’s first choice was always to enhance the CPP, said Sousa, but it proceeded with the provincial plan in case other provinces or the federal government continued to block a national agreement.

“Our government won a majority mandate on a promise to improve retirement security for Ontario workers through the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan,” he said in a statement.

“During a period of uncertainty about whether CPP enhancement could be achieved, we took a responsible approach and continued our work on establishing the ORPP.”

The full report on the costs of the ORPP show the administration corporation, which had 50 employees already, planned to hire 100 more this month, another 100 in September and 250 more next year.

Jan 20, 2016: Ontario’s Finance Minister Charles Sousa says the CPP reforms that were agreed upon is for future generations of Canadians.

Each member of the ORPPAC board was given an annual retainer of $50,000, while the chair was given $100,000. ORPPAC CEO Saad Rafi, who held the same position with the TO2015 Pan Am Games organizing committee, was paid $302,000 between Jan. 1, 2016 and his departure July 19.

The Progressive Conservatives called the OPRP another example of Liberal waste and mismanagement, and said Ontario could have convinced Ottawa and the other provinces to enhance the CPP without spending so much on its now defunct plan.

“Getting the CPP enhancement could have cost a plane ticket to Vancouver, but instead the government wasted $70 million,” said PC pensions critic Julia Munro.

“The Wynne Liberals owe Ontarians an apology.”

Sousa defended the spending, saying Ontario’s move to create its own pension plan was the driving force behind the deal reached in June to enhance the CPP.

“Without Ontario’s investments and work to develop the ORPP and elevate the issue of retirement security nationally, CPP expansion simply would not have happened,” he said.

Critics of CPP enhancement warn that imposing additional contributions on workers and employers will hurt the economy, with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business predicting it will be “devastating” for small companies.

© 2016 The Canadian Press

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