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Members gave Ministry of Finance an earful on pension law reforms

When the Society’s Pensioners’ Chapter unearthed a quiet attempt to amend Ontario’s pension laws to reduce provincially regulated pension plans’ obligations to communicate with their members, Society members and pensioners jumped into action.

With just a few days before a short, mid-summer consultation window closed, more than 1,600 Society members and pensioners sent their strong objection to these changes to Ontario’s Ministry of Finance. So far no new legislation has been tabled but the Society will be keeping a close eye on this issue.

There are two specific concerns with the proposed changes to the Pension Benefits Act:

  1. A pension plan could choose to issue notices by public advertisement “or other means” rather than direct personal communication by written or electronic mail, if approved by the regulator; and
  2. If a pension plan chooses to move to electronic communications it does not need the consent of the plan member to do so, though the member could revoke permission – it’s like unethical negative option billing practices.

While the Society does not oppose using electronic communication, it should be up to the pension plan member to decide how they receive communication. It opens up the possibility that a plan member stops receiving communication all together if the plan has an out of date or incorrect email address on file. The justification for the posted notice changes – “because the recipients are so numerous” – is simply not good enough to justify this threat to our right to information about our pension plans.

Unlike a private company, pension plans are administered for members’ benefit with member money (deferred wages). It is not too much to ask for proper communication so members are fully aware of the state of our retirement security.