© Copyright 2006 Rogers Publishing Ltd. The following article first appeared in the January 2005 edition of BENEFITS CANADA magazine.
 
The Patriot Act’s influence on Canada.
 

It may seem odd to think the Patriot Act, which gives the U.S. government extraordinary tools to help fight terrorism, could have an impact here in Canada. But the anti-terrorism law has stirred up controversy in British Columbia, where the provincial government decided to outsource its medical claims processing to a U.S.-based company.

The B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union(BCGEU) raised concerns that the U.S. government, under the Patriot Act, could potentially subpoena confidential information about B.C. claimants. But some believe the union was initially concerned about saving jobs in the province, not privacy. “I suspect the union’s real motive was to protect job loss and I think under the terms that the B.C. government was supposed to go ahead with, there would be a lot of transfer of jobs over to Maximus, the company that’s going to do the administration,” says Larry Jackson, health and welfare practice leader at Toronto- based Mellon Human Resources & Investor Solutions. But he says the Patriot Act issue is a legitimate one that could spill over from the medical services industry to financial institutions and other industries.

In fact, the issue got the attention of B.C.’s privacy commissioner, David Loukidelis, last fall. In a 151-page report, Loukidelis spelled out some of the steps he feels are necessary to help protect the privacy of British Columbians(and Canadians). “Our report concludes that measures can and should be put in place that meaningfully guard against access by the U.S. Patriot Act,” he said. One important recommendation is to have Ottawa and the provinces pass legislation that would prohibit personal information from being stored outside of Canada. The commissioner also suggested slapping fines on companies that violate B.C.’s privacy laws and that the provincial government must be notified if a request has been made for information.

Jackson says nothing official has been put in place by governments to address this issue, except for some mention of it at the First Ministers meeting held last summer in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. “Until you get a situation where the U.S. Patriot Act has required the disclosure of [Canadian] information, I’m not sure the governments will be able to do anything to safeguard or to take action,” says Jackson.

The BCGEU has launched a lawsuit challenging the move by the B.C. government. For its part, the province says it has assessed the outsourcing agreement and the privacy commissioner’s suggestions, and determined that the contract meets all the recommendations.

JUST THE FACTS

A SURGE IN SWEDEN
The Swedish Ministry of Finance says pension expenditures will rise to more than 10% of gross domestic product(GDP)in the next 30 years.

Pension expenditures as a percentage of GDP are estimated to increase from 8.5% in 2007 to more than 10% in the mid 2030s. The ministry attributes the increase to the rise in the number of elderly people in Sweden. The old age dependency ratio—the ratio between the number of persons older than working age and the number at working age—is predicted to rise from around 29 persons to 44 in 2040.

PHASING IN PHASED RETIREMENT
The U.S. Internal Revenue Service has issued rules which permit pension plans to introduce a phased retirement provision. The rules allow employees aged 59.5 to receive a pro-rated share of their accrued benefits based on their reduced working hours. Other rules require that employees be allowed to accrue additional service under the pension plan, based on imputed income. Plan sponsors would be required to monitor the number of hours these employees worked.

UNHAPPY INSTITUTIONS
Many German institutional investors appear to be dissatisfied with their investments.

According to a survey by SEI Investments, 73 small- to mid-size companies in Germany were asked how they felt about their investments. Sixty-four per cent said their investments lacked a high level of diversification. Fiftythree per cent complained they could not gain access to the world’s best management because they only had small sums of money to invest.

Joel Kranc

 

Copyright © 2018 Transcontinental Media G.P. This article first appeared in Benefits Canada.