TORONTO — Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne took credit Tuesday for the agreement reached by the country's finance ministers to enhance the Canada Pension Plan.
It was Ontario's constant demand to ensure people have an adequate retirement income and it's decision to pass legislation creating a provincial pension plan that prevented the issue from languishing on the back burner, Wynne said.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne looks on before making a climate change policy announcement at Evergreen Brickworks in Toronto, Wednesday, June 8, 2016. (Photo: Mark Blinch/CP)
"Quite frankly, I was a thorn in the side of many of my colleagues," she said. "I kept brining this up. I kept making it clear that we were moving ahead, and I kept making it clear that we all knew that there was a national problem."
Wynne said Ontario's preference was always for increased benefits under the CPP. She added that the province only decided to create its own plan when the previous federal Conservative government refused to consider anything that would increase premiums paid by employers.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau and his provincial colleagues — except Quebec and Manitoba — reached an agreement Monday to increase the maximum CPP benefit to about $17,478 a year from $13,000. Employers will pay increased CPP premiums of about $408 a year for each employee, who will pay matching amounts. The higher premiums phased in over seven years starting in 2019.
'Ontario's determination has paid off'
Ontario compromised by agreeing to benefits that would be about two-thirds of what Ontario workers would have received under the provincial plan. They also agreed to a one-year delay in starting the CPP changes.
"Had we not continued to work to implement the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan, had we not continued to put this issue on the table squarely with our colleagues across the country, I firmly believe that we would not be here today," she said.
"Ontario's determination has paid off."
Wynne said she got a sense about a month ago that there might be a way to reach a national deal to improve CPP benefits, but she said she kept pushing ahead with the Ontario plan anyway, even appointing a minister responsible for the ORPP just last week.
"I kept brining this up. I kept making it clear that we were moving ahead, and I kept making it clear that we all knew that there was a national problem."
"It was very clear to me that we needed to have that minister in place to make it clear to the people of Ontario, and to the national discussion, that we were determined to move head on the ORPP because there was a 50-50 chance we were going to have to implement the ORPP," she said.
The premier couldn't say how much it would cost set up the corporation to administer the ORPP, or how much was spent preparing for the provincial plan that will no longer be needed.
"I feel very, very gratified that we're here today, but I'm under no illusions that we didn't have to make those investments in order to get here," she said. "It was absolutely worth the cost."
Wynne insisted there were also "offsetting benefits" to the CPP agreement. The premier said the plan will be less expensive to administer than a provincial one, and it will be seamless for businesses and portable for workers who move between provinces.
Ontario Tories have some questions
"All of those benefits really do contribute to the success of this moment and the success of this change," she said.
Ontario Progressive Conservatives said they're pleased the province is scrapping the ORPP in favour of an enhanced CPP, but called for a full report on the cost to prepare the provincial pension plan and set up its administration corporation.
"There are serious questions regarding the substantial unnecessary costs of the Wynne Liberals proceeding with the ORPP," said PC critic Julia Munro. "We have seen this government appoint Liberal insiders, who will be paid thousands of dollars in severance, and continue to spend millions of dollars on advertisements in its push for the ORPP."
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