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The Ontario provincial flag flies over Queen’s Park in Toronto.Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

The Liberal win in the recent Ontario election campaign means the province's new retirement pension plan is a go. If anyone in the province's finance ministry is looking for any investing ideas, I have a few.

While the country's big boy pension plans focus increasingly on non-traditional investments like private companies, bridges, toll roads and tunnels, I suggest something a lot simpler. Three exchange-traded funds will do us just fine.

A pension plan need bonds to take the nasty edge off stocks, so let's throw some of the new Ontario pension plan's money into the iShares High Quality Canadian Bond Index ETF (CAB). There's a mix of high-grade government and corporate bonds in this fund – just the stuff investors will flock to if stocks tank. The management expense ratio is a very reasonable 0.14 per cent or so.

For Canadian stocks, let's grab the Vanguard FTSE Canada All Cap Index ETF (VCN), which covers big, medium and small companies and has a fee of 0.13 per cent. That's not the cheapest Canadian market ETF, but the exposure to the entire market instead of mainly larger companies offers the potential for slightly higher returns down the line.

Vanguard's FTSE All-World ex Canada Index ETF (VXC) is the third leg of our pension plan. Think of it as covering off the U.S., international and emerging markets in a single fund with an estimated MER of just 0.27 per cent. As wide-ranging global investments go, this is close to as cheap as it gets.

In keeping with the simplicity of this exercise, let's weight the three ETFs equally, which is to say each accounts for 33.3 per cent of the pension portfolio. The average fee is just 0.18 per cent, about one-tenth of what even inexpensive mutual funds would cost you. Pension plans pay the lowest stock-trading commissions available, but individual investors shouldn't pay more than $5 to $10 per trade in adding these ETFs to a portfolio. Some brokers even offer free ETF purchases.

We could add all kinds of fancy stuff to the Ontario pension plan's ETF portfolio, but that would mean extra complexity and cost without any assurance of improved returns. Why bother?