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Politics Keeping ORPP going while awaiting CPP news was ‘worth the cost,’ Wynne says

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne says her government’s tenacity led to the new CPP agreement.

Mark Blinch/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Ontario's new retirement pension plan died in a room full of federal and provincial politicians in Vancouver on Monday, just weeks before the Ontario government was poised to begin the expensive and complicated process of procuring an administrator for it.

The national agreement-in-principle reached among federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau and most of his provincial and territorial counterparts to enhance the Canada Pension Plan means the Wynne government does not have to implement its Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP).

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne had campaigned on bringing in a provincial pension plan; it was to start taking contributions in 2018 unless a national deal could be reached.

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Legislation was passed to create the ORPP, and an organization was being built around it. Already, 50 people are working for it.

All this will be scaled down now, Ms. Wynne told reporters on Tuesday. A new position will also have to be found for rookie minister Indira Naidoo-Harris, the Associate Finance Minister, who was just appointed in the cabinet shuffle last week. Ms. Naidoo-Harris was in charge of pensions; Ms. Wynne said she wanted to keep Ms. Naidoo-Harris at the cabinet table.

The Premier said that all of the costs involved in the ORPP so far will be tabulated and made public. It is not clear how officials, such as Saad Rafi, who was hired to head the agency in charge of the ORPP, will be compensated for being phased out of a job. Mr. Rafi was appointed in January, after leading the Toronto Pan Am Games organization.

However, she said keeping the ORPP going as the province negotiated for an enhanced CPP was "absolutely worth the cost." She believes that helped keep the issue alive, forcing the other provinces to act.

But, she added, the largest costs had not yet been incurred, such as procuring an administrator for the plan. "This is why it's so important that we have the agreement at this point before we actually move into that expenditure," she said.

Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa told The Globe and Mail that he explained at Monday's meeting that he was not leaving without a signed deal. If his colleagues would not commit in writing, he said: "Ontario is moving forward with the ORPP."

"I have to make a decision on the ORPP because the province has a go, no-go position in a few weeks' time in regards to appointing an administrator and a service provider ... on a huge undertaking," he said.

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