Wynne says feds playing politics on pensions

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ST. JOHN’S, N.L. – Premier Kathleen Wynne says Prime Minister Stephen Harper is playing politics by refusing to co-operate with Ontario’s new pension plan, and warns voters will question his motives in the upcoming election campaign.

“It’s a disappointing political move on the prime minister’s part,” Wynne said Friday after Finance Minister Joe Oliver sent a letter rejecting Ontario’s request for federal help in administering its new pension plan.

“I have no idea why Prime Minister Harper would want to make one of his last actions before he goes into an election — or maybe one of his last actions as prime minister — obstructing the retirement security of the people of Ontario,” added Wynne. “But, you know, that’s a choice he’s made.”

Federal and provincial officials have been “working well together” in talks on how to implement the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan, said Wynne, so Ottawa’s decision is disappointing and will make the job more difficult.

The federal government has the existing infrastructure to administer the Canada Pension Plan, and the province believes reaching a fee-for-service agreement with Ottawa would be the most efficient way to implement its plan. The province is looking at other options, but can’t say yet how much extra it could cost to set up with plan without federal help.

Wynne vowed to proceed with its implementation, even without assistance from the Conservative government.

“I think it’s very unfortunate, because what it does is threaten to make the whole process more complicated,” Wynne said. “That is a real challenge for the people of Ontario to understand why the prime minister would want to make a process being put in place to make their retirement more secure more complicated.”

The Conservatives have made no secret of their opposition to an Ontario pension plan, but Oliver upped the ante Thursday with his letter warning Ottawa will not co-operate with the province in any way.

“The Ontario government’s ORPP would take money from workers and their families, kill jobs and damage the economy,” wrote Oliver. “Administration of the ORPP will be the sole responsibility of the Ontario government, including the collection of contributions.”

Oliver said the feds would also refuse any legislative changes for the provincial pension to be treated like the CPP and would not integrate it within contribution limits for Registered Retirement Savings Plans.

Under the Ontario pension plan, which was approved in legislation in April, workers will have to contribute 1.9 per cent of their pay, to a maximum of $1,643 a year, which employers will have to match for every employee.

The mandatory contributions will be phased in over two years, starting with larger companies in 2017 before expanding to include small operations like convenience stores and dry cleaners.

The provincial Liberals say the ORPP deductions will start at the same time the federal government is scheduled to reduce Employment Insurance premiums.

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