Canadian Institute of Actuaries questions political parties on pension, health care and Employment Insurance issues

    OTTAWA, Sept. 17 /CNW Telbec/ - Canada's actuaries delivered a
questionnaire today to the five main political parties asking them to respond
to three areas of concern: the future of retirement savings in Canada; new
rules and guidelines for the Employment Insurance financing system; and
concerns around the need for better long-term planning in Canada's health care
    "Canada's actuaries are asking the parties to seriously consider their
commitment to these issues, all of which are critical to Canadians and a
healthy economy," says Mike Hale, President of the Canadian Institute of
Actuaries (CIA).
    According to Statistics Canada, only 21% of private sector workers were
covered by Defined Benefit pension plans in 2003, down from 29% in 1992.
Better pension plan coverage is in the best interests of Canadians. A 2007
study by the University of Waterloo showed that two-thirds of Canadians
planning to retire in 2030 are not saving enough for an independent
retirement. Yet a recent survey by Statistics Canada revealed that two-thirds
of Canadians aged 45 to 59 feel their retirement savings will adequately
provide for their needs. "This gap between reality and perception around
retirement savings and pensions is very important. Layer on the critical
issues of the demise of an excellent means of retirement saving, defined
benefit pension plans in the private sector, and the lack of harmonization of
pension legislation across the country, and without appropriate remedies, the
financial future of Canadians is in serious jeopardy," says Hale.
    The Institute recommends that within 90 days of a Government being
formed, a National Pension Reform Summit should be convened, with all federal
and provincial ministers responsible for pensions attending. The event would
focus on implementing changes that will promote retirement savings, pension
plan coverage and harmonization of pension legislation and regulation in
    Regarding Employment Insurance, the government recently changed the
financing regime for the system. While Canada's actuaries believe much of the
recent legislation improves the system, the new Canada Employment Insurance
Financing Board is hamstrung by being mandated to only maintain a $2 billion
cash reserve. "Given a one-year look-forward, and new requirements to
replenish the reserve within a year of its use, it really concerns us that
during a deep and long recession, $2 billion is simply not enough," says Hale.
"Canada's actuaries are recommending that over the next five to seven years,
the government should allow the reserve to rise to between $10 and
$15 billion. This would accomplish the goal of stabilizing rates over a normal
business cycle."
    Canada's health care system is also raising concerns with actuaries. The
Health Care Agreement of 2004 did not include a framework for strategic,
long-term investments in human resources and technology, two critical
cornerstones of Canada's health care system. By 2030, the percentage of the
population 65 years of age and older will double to almost 25%. As George
Abbott, B.C.'s Minister of Health recently asked, "Who's going to take care of
    Canada's actuaries believe the time is right for the federal government
to establish the position of Chief Health Care Actuary. This office would be
responsible for developing long-term investment and funding strategies for
human and technological resources in public health care. It would also assess
their impact on future transfer payments to the provinces to respond to the
challenges posed by changing demographics.
    Mike Hale concludes, "We know that the political parties are aware of
these issues and we hope that their election platforms will contain
commitments to resolve them. We intend to post the parties' answers on our
website for all Canadians to access over the course of the campaign."

    The Canadian Institute of Actuaries is the national organization of the
actuarial profession. Member driven, the Institute is dedicated to serving the
public through the provision, by the profession, of actuarial services and
advice of the highest quality. In fact, the Institute holds the duty of the
profession to the public above the needs of the profession and its members.
Actuaries employ their specialized knowledge of the mathematics of finance,
statistics and risk theory on problems faced by pension plans, government
regulators, insurance companies (both Life and Property/Casualty), social
programs and individuals.

For further information:

For further information: Josée Racette, (613) 236-8196, ext.107

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Canadian Institute of Actuaries

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