A strange story in today’s Ottawa Citizen (not available online as of writing) says “Ontario passed legislation Wednesday to create a provincial pension plan for more than three million people who do not have a workplace pension…¬†Workers will be required to contribute 1.9 per cent of their pay to the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan, to a maximum of $1,643 a year, which employers have to match for every employee.” It¬†goes on to quote¬†Associate Finance Minister Mitzie Hunter that “Over $3.5 billion will be invested in the fund each year.¬†Members of the plan will be able to have an income stream for life when they retire.”

Why’s that strange? Because of Hunter’s confidence that saving a few thousand dollars a year will give you “an income stream for life”? Her conviction that when companies have to take money they might otherwise put into wages and salaries and divert it to a government fund it doesn’t come from workers’ pockets? Her belief that government will save for you more efficiently than you would for yourself? Well yes, arguably, on all counts. But what struck me as really odd was the bit where the Citizen went on that “Hunter could not say when retirees could expect to start receiving benefit payments from the provincial pension plan. ‚ÄĚňúWe’re still actually developing details of the plan.'”

OK, then, how do you know it’s a good plan if you haven’t yet figured out how it works, or whether it does? And how can a legislature pass a bill authorizing a scheme crucial details of which are still up in the air? How can legislators exercise their crucial functions of oversight of the executive and control of the public purse when they’re asked to rubber stamp yeah whatever man we’ll fill it in later?

It is neither sound public policy nor sound constitutional practice. I find that strange.

John Robson
John Robson is a documentary filmmaker, an Invited Professor at the University of Ottawa and a commentator-at-large with News Talk Radio 580 CFRA in Ottawa. He holds a B.A. and M.A. in history from the University of Toronto and a Ph.D in American history from the University of Texas at Austin. He has worked in academia, think tanks and politics as well as doing print, radio and television journalism in Canada, and produced and hosted the documentary The Great War Remembered for Sun News Network in 2014. He is married to Brigitte Pellerin.

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