Pensions Conference

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Event date: 
Tuesday, December 1, 2015 - 09:00 to Wednesday, December 2, 2015 - 12:00
Name of Organization: 
Lancaster House
Contact Email: 
Sheraton Centre Hotel, Toronto

Panel 1
The Politics of Pensions: What lies ahead for Canada's public pension system?
9:00 AM - 10:15 AM 
Rob CarrickPersonal Finance Columnist, The Globe and Mail
Bob BaldwinConsultant
Paul MoistNational President Canadian Union of Public Employees
Ian LeeAssistant Professor, Sprott School of Business,Carleton University
Susan NickersonPension Counsel, Torys

In this session, Lancaster's pension experts will consider Canada's public pension system in the context of the results of the 2015 federal election, setting out a framework for understanding key issues of the day and questions for the future. The following points will be covered:·        

Assessing Canada's retirement readiness: What is the current state of Canada's public pension system? What do recent studies suggest about senior poverty and pension participation rates? Does the best available data support the view that there is a growing pension crisis in Canada or not? Do experts on opposing sides of this debate rely on the same or different data to make their case?·        

Predicting the future of Canada's public pension system: In light of the results of the recent federal election, what changes are in store for the second tier of Canada's pension system, which currently consists of the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and the Quebec Pension Plan? Will there be an expansion of the CPP? Will the Ontario government move ahead with implementing the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP)? In either case, how will the solution be targeted to reach the pockets of the population most in need of retirement assistance?·        

Considering the broader implications of public pension reform: How will developments in Canada's public pension system affect the employment relationship? What impact will changes have on collective bargaining? On the viability of private-sector workplace pension plans? On small businesses? 

BREAK (with refreshments)10:15 AM - 10:45 AM  

Panel 2
Defined Benefit Plans: Why are we moving away from them? What are we leaving behind?
10:45 AM - 12:00 PM 
Malcolm HamiltonSenior Fellow, C.D. Howe Institute
Jim KeohanePresident and CEO, Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan
Jeff RichardsonStaff Representative, United Steelworkers,,TBA
Employer Counsel, TBA

Given the ongoing shift from defined benefit (DB) to defined contribution (DC) plans, this session will focus on arguments for and against the maintenance and/or establishment of DB plans in the public and private sectors. Shedding light on whether the trend is ill or well advised, leaders in the field will square off on the following issues:·        

Considering the public sector: Are public sector DB plans too expensive? Would stakeholders, including employees and taxpayers, be better off if public sector DB plans were converted to DC plans? What role does "pension envy" play in this debate? Do competing experts rely on the same or different data to make their case? What measures can or should be implemented to ensure the sustainability of public sector pension plans?·        

Examining the private sector: Are DB plans unworkable in the private sector? Is DB plan volatility simply too great a burden to bear for most employers? How will the new actuarial mortality tables play into this concern? What other considerations, including longevity risk and accounting rules, impact employer willingness to maintain or set up a DB plan? How, if at all, can the uncertainties associated with sponsoring a DB plan in the private sector be alleviated? Is longevity risk insurance the answer? Does the solution lie with solvency funding relief? Should solvency funding relief be offered ad hoc "in times of need" or implemented as a permanent change in legislation? Should solvency funding continue to be required for all DB plans in the private sector, as compared to the public sector which is largely exempt from solvency funding? If not, what should apply in its place? What options are being considered in various provinces across Canada, including Ontario and Quebec? 

12:00 PM - 1:15 PM  

Panel 3
Reducing the Risks, Raising the Returns: Can the problems of defined contribution plans be solved?
1:15 PM - 2:30 PM 
Mitch FrazerPartner and Chair of the Pensions and Employment Practice, Torys
Janice HolmanPrincipal, Eckler Ltd
Hugh KerrVice President and Associate General Counsel, Sun Life Financial
TBA, Union Counsel,  TBA

Building on Panel 2, specialists in the field will closely examine the pros and cons of DC pension plans to identify where the push to DC plans in the public and private sectors is taking us. A discussion of methods for getting the most out of DC plans will follow. The agenda will cover:·        

Identifying the problems: What are the primary shortcomings and advantages of DC plans? How do the following factors impact the cost of DC plans: management fees; lack of pooling; member apathy or incompetence? What is the crux of the decumulation problem associated with DC plans? Who bears the longevity risk associated with these plans, and why? What can be learned from the experience of other jurisdictions where a large shift to DC plans has occurred?·        

Examining possible solutions: Are there effective ways to achieve better results from DC plans? Is it better to have one investment policy as compared to one for each member? Fewer versus more investment choices? How, if at all, can fee regulation or disclosure requirements impact the efficiency of DC plans? What spend period solutions can be considered? Do these solutions go far enough to efficiently ensure a secure retirement?  

BREAK (with refreshments)
2:30 PM - 2:45 PM

Panel 4
Hybrid Pension Plans: Are target benefit plans the answer to our pension problems?
2:45 PM - 4:00 PM 
Jamie HacheyPresident, Saint John Police Association
Kevin SkerrettSenior Research Officer, Canadian Union of Public Employees
Jana SteelePension Counsel, Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt
Paul WinnettPartner, Morneau Shepell

The move away from DB plans is not a clear course to DC. Many employers are instead being drawn to target benefit plans (TBPs), a trend popularized by New Brunswick's "shared risk" pension plan model. In this session, Lancaster's pension experts will consider practical and legislative questions raised by these new hybrid pension plans, zeroing in on the following:·        

Understanding the essentials: What are the defining characteristics of hybrid pension plans? How, if at all, do TBPs differ from multi-employer pension plans (MEPPs), shared risk plans (SRPs), or jointly sponsored pension plans (JSPPs)? Is risk really shared in these plans? Are TBPs a viable solution to the DC decumulation problem? Does the size or scale of the TBP make a difference in this regard? Why or why not?         
Considering complex design questions: Is the New Brunswick approach of prescribed risk management the answer to improved benefit security in hybrid plan models? Should legislation permit pension plans to change guaranteed accrued past service benefits under a DB plan to target benefits, as in New Brunswick? Should the ability to reduce pension benefits, if there are insufficient assets to fund targeted amounts, be restricted to the multi-employer environment, as is presently the case under most provincial pension standards legislation? Should pension laws accommodate single-employer TBPs? If so, should the rules confine single-employer TBPs to unionized environments? What legislative changes are being contemplated in this respect in various provinces across Canada? Is solvency funding needed for TBPs, or is solvency testing enough? 

4:00 PM


Day 2

Panel 5
Pensions at the Bargaining Table: Planning negotiation strategies, learning from success stories
9:00 AM - 10:15 AM 
Hugh MackenziePrincipal, Hugh Mackenzie & Associates
Michael SherrardEmployer Counsel, Sherrard Kuzz
TBA, Union Counsel, TBA

In light of the changing pension landscape, parties are sure to encounter tough pension issues in upcoming rounds of collective bargaining. In this session, experienced counsel will offer practical guidance on pension negotiation strategies, drawing lessons from recent real life examples. These and other topical questions will be addressed:·        

Charting the course ahead: How are parties planning to deal with changes to Canada's public pension system? What kinds of offsets will employers likely demand at the bargaining table as a result of increased costs associated with expanding the CPP or, in Ontario, implementing the ORPP? How can unions work with employers to overcome business viability concerns raised by expanding Canada's public pension system?·        

Examining success stories: What strategies have parties, such as Air Canada and its unionized employee groups, employed to maintain DB plans? What is the impact on negotiations when plan improvements are achieved before bargaining? How have parties dealt with plan conversions? What solutions have parties crafted at the bargaining table to improve DC plans? 

BREAK (with refreshments)
10:15 AM - 10:45 AM     

Panel 6
Emerging Themes, Creative Solutions: Round table wrap-up and open forum discussion
10:45 AM - 12:00 PM 
Randy BauslaughPension Counsel, McCarthy Tétrault
Jo-Ann HannahDirector, Pensions and Benefits Department, Unifor

This session will be run as an open forum, with Lancaster's experts discussing key takeaways from the conference and inviting comments and questions from the floor. Participants will deepen their understanding of live issues in the pension debate by freely exchanging ideas and jointly examining difficult questions pertaining to the future of retirement well-being in Canada. 

12:00 PM