Each year, we pension and benefit lawyers watch Ontario’s Budget announcement intently. We ask: “Will this be the year for blockbuster, sweeping announcements on changes in pension and benefit policy?” For 2016, the answer is a decided “no”. Largely, this year’s Ontario Budget recommitted to a number of previously announced proposals. This alert briefly summarizes the Ontario 2016 Budget tabled February 25, 2016, entitled “Jobs for Today and Tomorrow” (the “Budget”) and the corresponding Budget Bill, Bill 173, Jobs for Today and Tomorrow Act (Budget Measures), 2016.

The Budget is the Government’s self-described initiative to keep itself “accountable” for previously announced pension initiatives, with some of these initiatives having been introduced more than five years ago. In addition, the Government made new announcements regarding drug benefits for seniors, which some Ontario employers will want to review carefully. The table below outlines the proposals and deadlines that the Budget’s pension and benefit portions set out.

Click here to view the Table

What’s still on the books?

The Ontario Government still has a lot of work to do. This work includes the following changes to the Ontario PBA (some of which were announced well over five years ago):

  • Optional pension plan design changes: We are still waiting on supporting regulations that will bring into force the following optional plan design changes: optional benefits; variable benefits; and phased retirement.
  • Required advance notice for all pension plan amendments: We are waiting on regulations that will require pension plan administrators to provide members, retired members, former members, and trade unions with notice of all plan amendments before they are registered with the regulator, subject to exceptions that will be set out in future regulations.
  • Prescribed requirements to retain pension plan records: Future regulations will bring into effect a PBA provision that requires plan administrators to retain prescribed pension records for prescribed periods of time.

The Budget’s pension and benefit announcements (or in many cases, confirmatory re-announcements) have significant ramifications for employers, administrators, trustees and pension service providers located in Ontario or who have Ontario employees.