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Workers do maintenance at the Scotlynn Group where 164 migrant workers have tested positive for COVID-19, shutting down the asparagus farming facility temporarily, near Vittoria, Ont., in Norfolk County on June 3, 2020.

Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

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Protecting migrant workers

Re New Outbreak Ensnares Dozens Of Migrant Workers At Ontario Farm (June 29): Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health David Williams’s apparent respect for migrant workers’ desire to work rings hollow with the questionable safety measures in place. Why isn’t Dr. Williams requiring farmers to provide the same isolation and quarantine measures that are recommended for other Ontarians?

Marilyn Minden Toronto

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Employer-provided accommodations have in too many cases proven to be incubators of COVID-19. Meat plants, another major employer of migrant workers, have also been implicated. These are the people who feed us and our families. We owe them safe workplaces and accommodations.

Worker compensation authorities in the various provinces should immediately pay for treatment and quarantine accommodation of infected workers – and payments to families who lose providers. Premium assessments of employers with high infection rates will go a substantial way in motivating such employers to improve conditions for their employees.

George Haeh Lethbridge, Alta.

Alberta, Quebec and CPPIB

Re Alberta’s Nationalists Have An Odd Love Affair With Quebec (June 27): Andrew Coyne needs to get his facts straight on the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. He wrote: “The CPP investment fund is an out-of-control monstrosity, its costs now exceeding $3.4-billion … its payroll swollen to more than 1,800 full-time employees … all in pursuit of the same fools’ gold: consistent above-market returns, with which promoters of such ‘active management’ strategies bilk the gullible.” As possible alternatives, he praised the Australia and Singapore systems of “mandatory individual savings plans.”

He confuses pension design and delivery mechanisms. Australia’s design is indeed based on mandatory saving through individual pension pots, but these pots are managed by a small number of “super funds” that aspire to be as good as the CPPIB. Singapore’s collective pension pot is managed by the Government Investment Corp., which operates very much like CPPIB. Singapore experimented with individually managed investment accounts for a while, but found (predictably) that they performed poorly relative to the collective pool expertly managed by GIC, and wisely chose to eliminate the option.

Management philosopher Peter Drucker argued for the expert collective option 40 years ago. Thirty years ago, the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan became the globe’s first special purpose, expert pension organization based on the Drucker principles. Today, it has one of the best performance records in the world. As its superior model came to be recognized, other Canadian pension organizations (including CPPIB) began to adopt it. Now, globally, the “Canada Pension Model” is what pension organizations around the world aspire to become.

Where does the model’s superior investment performance come from? A key factor is the insourcing of private-markets investing, which was historically outsourced to very high-cost (5 per cent of assets) commercial managers. This generally led to attractive gross returns, but disappointing net returns owing to the high expenses. By insourcing, the model cuts those expenses by as much as 90 per cent while maintaining the attractive private-markets gross returns.

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So the CPPIB is not Mr. Coyne’s out-of-control monstrosity in pursuit of fools’ gold. Instead, it generates wealth to pay future pensions at a higher rate than the alternatives of outsourcing private-markets investing at very high cost, or simply investing CPP contributions in low-cost index funds. CPPIB’s most important success driver has been to hire all those people Mr. Coyne complained about in his column. Yes, they increase visible investment expenses, but those expenses are far lower than the high invisible fees that used to go to external investment/merchant bankers and fund managers. All those CPPIB investment professionals are making CPP members wealthier, not poorer.

Keith Ambachtsheer Director Emeritus, International Centre for Management, University of Toronto

Having grown up on the Prairies and having spent considerable time in Quebec, I would have agreed if Mr. Coyne had said people in Alberta and Quebec hold similar views on some issues, but that’s as far as the comparison goes.

Use the term Quebec nationalists, if you like, but to talk about Alberta nationalists is to completely miss what’s going on there. Their views of Canada and the world are not the same.

Jason Kenney, the Premier of Alberta can say, as he did recently, “I am an unqualified Canadian patriot.” Quebec’s Premier François Legault, couldn’t say that if his equalization payments depended on it.

I’ve come to suspect Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wouldn’t mind seeing the rise of a separatist party in Alberta. His father’s reputation was built fighting separatists in Quebec. An Alberta separatist party might give him just the opponent he needs to revive his fraying reputation in the rest of Canada. People in Alberta would be foolish to give him an opportunity.

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Dale Lovell Victoria

Royal ruling

Re Top Court Reaffirms Canada Is On The Right Royal Track (June 27): The authors state that the Supreme Court of Canada “upheld” the Quebec Court of Appeal’s decision on the validity of Canada’s Succession to the Throne Act, 2013. Further, they state that the Supreme Court made the Quebec Court of Appeal “the definitive ruling.”

The authors leave the false impression that the Supreme Court made a substantive decision on the issue. In fact, all the court did was decide not to hear an appeal of the Quebec ruling. As per its custom, the Supreme Court did not issue reasons for denying leave. A denial of leave to appeal is not necessarily an endorsement of the lower court judgment – merely that the judges did not believe the case met the criterion of an issue of “public importance.” This is an important distinction that arises every day – not just in royal cases.

Stephen Bindman Visiting fellow, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa

Mulroney’s vision for Canada

Re Canada, I Know You Can Beat COVID-19 (June 27): I read with interest former prime minister Brian Mulroney’s essay on current crises and the path forward for Canada. Stepping aside of the COVID-19 problem, I wish Mr. Mulroney had held those insightful views when he was in power.

Simply, I believe the first six issues would be tackled and addressed by the federal NDP. Given the complexity and sensitivity of the next four issues, I have serious concerns that federal Liberal and Conservative governments would have serious difficulty addressing these issues. I am sad to say I do not see these political parties taking the bold initiatives that will move our country forward.

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George Caron Glenburnie, Ont.

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