On January 9, 2009, the federal Minister of Finance, the Honourable Jim Flaherty, released a discussion paper on improving the framework for federally regulated private pension plans. This discussion paper follows an announcement in November that the federal government would provide temporary solvency relief (i.e. extend the payment period from 5 to 10 years) to federally regulated pension plans that have been affected by substantial declines in the equity markets. Similar relief has recently been proposed by other governments including Ontario, Alberta, and Quebec. The federal announcement also closely follows recent reform discussions in Ontario, Alberta, and Nova Scotia.

The federal government has invited submissions on the issues addressed in the discussion paper and will accept submissions until midnight, March 16, 2009. Minister Flaherty also announced that the federal government will consult with provinces and territories concerning pension regulation. A federal-provincial working group of senior officials has been established to discuss pension issues.

It appears that recent tumultuous economic events, coinciding with longstanding and repeated concerns about the structure of the pension system in Canada, may actually lead to some form of consensus and provide Canadian politicians with the opportunity and political will to make positive changes to the way in which pensions are regulated and operate.