Key Findings of The Pensions Canadians Want: The Results of a National Survey

An online survey of 1,000 working Canadians asked respondents about their expectations, desires and strategies for retirement. Overall, the survey found that Canadians value the features typically found in defined benefit (DB) plans and would be willing to pay to secure those features. The survey also found that Canadians with a workplace pension, especially those participating in DB plans, have greater confidence that they will be prepared for retirement. The results also indicate that Canadians are finding ways to adapt to meet retirement objectives, such as retiring later or supplementing retirement income with additional employment.

The survey results will be useful to policy makers, employers and plan sponsors seeking to understand what Canadians want and expect from retirement savings and pension plans. The full report is available here.  A summary of the report is also available.

Media contact: John Cappelletti, 416-673-9040,

About the author of the report


Bob Baldwin

Bob Baldwin is a consultant who specializes in pensions. With more than 30 years of experience, Bob has a thorough knowledge of pensions, aging society, and labour-market issues. He has conducted extensive research and published many reports and papers on these subjects. Bob has worked for several well-known institutions, in particular as a member of the board at PSP Investments, and at the Canadian Labour Congress. He has provided pension advice to the federal and provincial governments and to the OECD through its Trade Union Advisory Committee. He was an expert advisor to the Ontario Expert Commission on Pensions and is a former member and chair of the Canada Pension Plan Advisory Board. Bob holds a Master’s Degree in Political Science from the University of Western Ontario.


Research paper finds conversion to defined contribution pensions comes with higher costs

A research paper by a renowned actuary demonstrates that converting large public sector defined benefit (DB) pension plans to defined contribution (DC) arrangements is not a financial panacea. Instead, it would create higher costs, inefficiencies and increased risks for employers, taxpayers and members.

CoverIIIShifting Public Sector DB Plans to DC – The Experience so far and Implications for Canada, is written by Robert L. Brown, retired professor from the University of Waterloo and president of the International Actuarial Association, and Craig McInnes, a journalist and writer, and explores the implications of converting large public sector DB pension plans to individually controlled and pooled DC arrangements.

The paper examines the claim that converting public sector DB plans to DC is in the best interests of taxpayers and other stakeholders by studying the experience of other jurisdictions, including Australia, Michigan, Nebraska, New York City, Saskatchewan and Texas and applying those lessons here.

After examining the literature on the experience in other jurisdictions and modelling what the ramifications would be in converting a large Canadian DB plan to DC, the paper concludes that none of the stakeholders, including taxpayers, would ultimately be better off.

“The perceived advantages to closing DB pension plans in the private sector do not translate directly into the public sector,” says Brown.

“We ask what are we trying to achieve through converting large public sector pension plans from DB to DC and then look at whether those goals would be achieved, not just for public sector employers but for everyone who would be affected either directly or indirectly, including taxpayers.”

The authors identify five stakeholders in the conversion debate and examine whether in every case a shift to a DC arrangement would solve problems or create them. The stakeholder groups are: Employers, including governments; Employees and their dependents; Current taxpayers; Future generations of taxpayers; and Society at large.

“Our modelling has shown us that for an efficient $10 Billion DB plan, converting to individual-account DC arrangements to provide the same value of pension benefit would increase the ongoing cost of the plan by about 77 per cent, and increase the required contribution rates accordingly,” say Brown and McInnes. The authors add that even with the use of pooled DC pension arrangements, ongoing costs would still increase by 26%.

While the subject of the research paper is primarily an analysis of converting DB to DC plans, the authors note that many public sector plans have already evolved to the point where they are no longer pure DB plans in which only employers own the risks. Most large provincial and sector-based plans have already moved towards more risk sharing with plan members. Some are jointly sponsored, which means that costs and the risk of unforeseen variance in those costs are shared equally between members and employers. Some have contingent benefits, such as a partial inflation adjustment, that are not paid unless the plan is fully funded. In short, many public sector plans are well governed and well managed.

The paper will be the subject of a panel discussion at the Second National Summit on Pension Reform tomorrow in Toronto. The event has been organized by the Public Policy Forum.

Funding for this study was made possible by the Canadian Public Pension Leadership Council (CPPLC). The Co-Chairs of the CPPLC are Derek W. Dobson, CEO and Plan Manager of the CAAT Pension Plan in Ontario, and Bruce Kennedy, Executive Director College Pension Plan, Teachers’ Pension Plan, and Public Service Pension Plan in British Columbia


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Backgrounder: About the authors


Robert RBrownL. Brown, PhD, FCIA, FSA, ACAS

Robert is retired Professor of Actuarial Science and Director of the Institute of Insurance and Pension Research at the University of Waterloo. He retired in 2010.

He is currently the President of the International Actuarial Association (IAA) and served as President of the Canadian Institute of Actuaries (CIA) in 1990/91 and the Society of Actuaries (SOA) in 2000-2001. Robert also was the Research Chair for the Ontario Expert Commission on Pensions 2007-08.

He has authored seven books has published more than 50 articles in refereed journals. His research focus is the evolution of financial security programs in times of rapidly shifting demographics.

Professor Brown lives in Victoria, B.C.

Craig MCraigMcInnescInnes

Craig is a Victoria-based journalist, writer and researcher who specializes in translating difficult and technical subjects into language that is accessible and compelling for ordinary people.

Until 2013, he wrote about pension issues, among other social and political topics, for the Editorial Board of the Vancouver Sun, as well as writing thrice-weekly columns and feature articles for the paper. He has written about both the financial and political context of pension issues in Canada with an emphasis on the implications for future generations and why young people should care and get involved in the debate.

During his 18 years at The Globe and Mail he opened the Victoria Bureau after serving as the Queen’s Park Bureau Chief in Toronto and was a beat reporter covering municipal affairs, the environment and health care.


Backgrounder: Canadian Public Pension Leadership Council


Formed in November 2013, CPPLC is a non-partisan group of public sector pension plan senior administrators from across the country working together to help inform the debate about retirement income security using evidence-based research. For more information, visit

DerekDerek 2013 W. Dobson, Co-chair of the CPPLC.

Derek is the CEO and Plan Manager of the CAAT Pension Plan and is a tireless advocate for shared-risk defined benefit (DB) pension plans and is dedicated to providing retirement security to Ontario’s postsecondary education sector.

The CAAT Plan is a jointly sponsored defined benefit plan with more than $7.1 billion in assets. The Plan is fully funded on a going concern basis. It provides pensions and service to 37,000 active and retired members and their 31 employers in the Ontario college system.

The operational and strategic objectives of the CAAT Plan focus on four key areas: delivering excellent value; providing timely education and service to members; reducing and managing risk; and controlling long-term costs.

Derek joined the CAAT Plan as CEO and Plan Manager in 2009 and has used his more than 20 years of pension experience to build an organization that is today recognized for its good governance practices and solid investment performance. He has an undergraduate degree in mathematics from the University of Waterloo and is an Associate of the Society of Actuaries.

 judy-payne-2014Judy Payne, Co-chair of the CPPLC

Judy Payne is the Executive Director of the British Columbia Municipal Pension Plan.

She has been involved with pensions for several decades, achieving a rich understanding of plan administration, governance, risk management, legislation and policy development, client service and stakeholder relations. Prior to joining the Municipal Pension Plan, Judy held various senior management positions with the BC Pension Corporation.

Judy has a BA (Honours) from the University of Western Ontario, a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Victoria, and a pension plan administration certificate from Humber College.

Called to the bar in 1996, Judy is a member of the Law Society of BC. She is also a member of the BC regional council for the Association of Canadian Pension Management and co-chair the Western North American PRI network.