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Millions spent on defunct pension

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TORONTO—Ontario’s Liberal government spent $70 million to create a provincial pension plan that won’t be needed because Ottawa and the other provinces agreed to enhance the CPP.

The spending includes $3.7 million in compensation payments for employees at the corporation set up by the province to administer the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan, including more than $2 million to be split by its top six executives.

Most of the ORPP executives only were hired in March or April, and one in June, but they will be entitled to about $335,000 each in severance.

The New Democrats called the severance payments an “insult” to people who can’t afford to retire, especially when most people knew the provincial pension plan was unlikely to get off the ground.

“Premier Kathleen Wynne and her government failed to cap executive severances in anticipation of the foreseeable outcome that CPP enhancement would make the ORPP unnecessary,” said NDP pensions critic Jennifer French.

“This is another sad example of Liberals putting the needs of their friends ahead of the needs of Ontarians,” she charged.

Documents released yesterday show the pension corporation signed a five-year, $12-million lease for two floors of a downtown Toronto office building earlier this year, and borrowed $31 million from the provincial government.

The ORPPAC also spent $17.7 million on consulting services.

Finance minister Charles Sousa said there’s another $15 million set aside for any outstanding costs for winding up the pension plan administration corporation.

Ontario’s first choice always was to enhance the CPP, noted Sousa, but it proceeded with the provincial plan in case other provinces or the federal government continued to block a national agreement.

“Our government won a majority mandate on a promise to improve retirement security for Ontario workers through the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan,” Sousa said in a statement.

“During a period of uncertainty about whether CPP enhancement could be achieved, we took a responsible approach and continued our work on establishing the ORPP.”

The full report on the costs of the ORPP show the administration corporation, which had 50 employees already, planned to hire 100 more this month, another 100 in September, and 250 more next year.

Each member of the ORPPAC board was given an annual retainer of $50,000 while the chair was given $100,000.

ORPPAC CEO Saad Rafi, who held the same position with the TO2015 Pan Am Games organizing committee, was paid $302,000 between Jan. 1 and his departure July 19.

The Progressive Conservatives called the OPRP another example of Liberal waste and mismanagement, and said Ontario could have convinced Ottawa and the other provinces to enhance the CPP without spending so much on its now defunct plan.

“Getting the CPP enhancement could have cost a plane ticket to Vancouver, but instead the government wasted $70 million,” argued PC pensions critic Julia Munro.

“The Wynne Liberals owe Ontarians an apology.”

Sousa defended the spending, saying Ontario’s move to create its own pension plan was the driving force behind the deal reached in June to enhance the CPP.

“Without Ontario’s investments and work to develop the ORPP, and elevate the issue of retirement security nationally, CPP expansion simply would not have happened,” he said.

Critics of CPP enhancement warn that imposing additional contributions on workers and employers will hurt the economy.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business predicts it will be “devastating’’ for small companies.

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