Last month, the Quebec government posted its budget for 2012-2013, which included a number of pension-related items.

  • Expert Committee: The committee tasked with studying Québec’s retirement system, chaired by Alban D’Amours, is expected to table its report in early 2013. The recommendations of the Expert Committee will likely lead to a round of pension reform in 2013-2014.
  • CPP/QPP Improvements: The Québec government will continue working with the other provinces and the federal government to assess the possibility of making gradual and fully funded improvements to the Québec Pension Plan and the Canada Pension Plan. (This proposal seems to have some “legs” as only today The Globe and Mail reported that a policy paper on CPP reform prepared by federal and provincial public servants will be presented to the finance ministers at their annual December meeting.)
  • Voluntary Retirement Savings Plans: The Québec government will table, by the spring of 2013, a bill to implement its new voluntary retirement savings plans (VRSP). This VRSP proposal is largely consistent with the Québec government’s previous proposal (as discussed in my March 22, 2012 blog post). As I noted in my earlier post, it remains to be seen how harmonized this new scheme will be with the federal government’s pooled registered pension plans (for which the federal government passed framework legislation and regulations this fall). For the time being, it already appears that VRSPs will be different from the federal PRPPs in at least some respects (including mandatory participation, locking-in rules, investment options and the meaning of “low cost”).

In addition, the National Assembly recently adopted Bill 15, An Act to provide for the establishment of target-benefit pension plans in certain pulp and paper sector enterprises, which is intended to pave the way for the establishment of single-employer target benefit plans in Quebec. While its scope is currently limited to the pulp and paper industry, it is to be expected that this design will be made available more broadly in the future (possibly as part of the upcoming pension reform). Note that Bill 15 only creates an exemption from the application of certain provisions of the Supplemental Pension Plans Act. The entire framework for target benefit plans is to be set out in regulations which have yet to be released.

Pensions continue to be a hot topic in Canada, as employers who sponsor defined benefit plans grapple with funding challenges and governments try to determine how to best address pension coverage issues. It will be interesting to see how (or perhaps I should say if) Quebec’s proposed approach (and the recommendations of the Expert Committee in particular) addresses these outstanding issues.