If elected, the Liberals promise to work on a new, voluntary supplement to the Canada Pension Plan that they call the Secure Retirement Option (SRO). Here’s how it would work: Canadians can voluntarily contribute an additional 5 to 10 percent of their paycheck into a retirement fund backed by the CPP. A contribution to the SRO will result in an equal reduction in the RRSP contribution room. It is not entirely clear but the wording in the document seems to suggest that the SRO will be a definited contribution plan and hence not a true pension. Since any changes to the CPP will require the assent of the provinces, the Liberals only promise to “pursue this innovative approach”.
The Secure Retirement Option is a new public option, within the CPP, that would change the outlook for those Canadians who currently do not have a pension plan. It would allow them to avoid the risk, complexity and hidden management fees of RRSPs. A two-person household, with earnings that start at $35,000 per year, and rise to $65,000 per year over time would need to have annual pension of $14,000 on top of the existing Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security to secure a pension worth 60 percent of their household income at retirement. A voluntary six percent contribution rate from gross pay over the working years to an SRO account would put the household on track to achieve that goal. Participating workers who contribute more, or those whose employers provide additional contributions, would receive an even more generous pension.
The SRO is the same supplementary CPP option that received much media attention in the run up to the pension reform roundtable last year. But it doesn’t appear all that different in substance from the Pooled Registered Pension Plans that the Government announced it is working on last December.
The Platform also says that the party will support “a gradual increase of the defined benefits under the core CPP” but details are conspicuous by their absence. How much of an increase are the Liberals talking about? By how much will CPP contributions by both employers and employees increase? Of course, we can’t expect too much from an election platform. Mentioning benefits while omitting any discussion of costs is par for the course for a political document.