As Canadians head to the polls today, Benefits Canada takes a look at how the federal parties’ campaign promises could impact the human resources, benefits and pension industries.
The Conservative Party is proposing a plan that would put pension plan members first when the company sponsoring the plan goes bankrupt. It’s also promising to prevent executives from paying themselves bonuses while managing a company going through restructuring unless the pension plan is fully funded. As well, its platform includes requiring companies to be more transparent with their employees by mandating they report the funding status of their pension plans and no longer forcing underfunded pension plans to be converted to annuities.
The New Democratic Party is also focusing on pension plans with a promise to ensure members are at the front of the line when a company goes bankrupt — making sure unfunded pension liabilities owed to workers, and employees’ severance pay, are the top priority for repayment. It also said it would stop companies from paying out dividends and bonuses when pensions are under-funded and would create a mandatory, industry-financed pension insurance program.
After making similar promises in its 2019 budget, the federal Liberal Party said in September 2019 that it would reform the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to improve retirement security and protect pension plans. The Liberals’ 2021 platform doesn’t refer to pension plans.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is promising 10 sicks days for federally regulated employees.
While the Conservatives didn’t include a clear promise related to paid sick leave in its election platform, it’s promising to increase employment insurance benefits for ailing workers to 52 weeks from 26, a move that could help people battling life-threatening diseases like cancer. A similar promise from the Bloc Québécois platform pledges to increase EI sickness benefits to 50 weeks for the seriously ill.
The NDP’s platform includes a promise to “work with the provinces to update federal standards and bring in a permanent safety net of paid sick leave across the country and to close the gap until every worker has access to paid sick days.”
And, while the Green Party of Canada didn’t comment on the issue in its election platform, a press release published on the party’s website in April said: “Whether it’s sick pay, a national long-term care strategy, universal pharmacare, dental care, passing legislation to bring in a guaranteed livable income or implementing the final recommendations of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, we can and must do better to eliminate existing inequities.”
The Conservative Party is promising to create tax-free savings accounts that provide gig workers with access to the Canada Pension Plan and EI benefits. Leader Erin O’Toole said the coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated the need for these accounts because gig workers currently can’t pay into the CPP and don’t qualify for EI benefits.
Meanwhile, the Liberal Party is pledging to increase the guaranteed income supplement by $500 for single seniors and $750 for senior couples. In a press release, it also said it will restore “the retirement age to 65 from 67 after the Conservatives raised it.”
The Conservative Party is promising it will encourage employers to add mental-health coverage to their benefits plans by offering a tax credit for 25 per cent of the cost of this additional coverage for the first three years.
Meanwhile, the Liberal Party is promising Canadians increased access to free mental-health services through a new transfer to provinces and territories. According to its federal election platform, the party would commit to permanent, ongoing funding for mental-health services through the transfer, with an initial investment of $4.5 billion over five years.
And the NDP is pledging to cover the cost of mental-health prescriptions under its proposed pharmacare plan, while providing mental-health care for uninsured Canadians at no cost.
The Liberal Party is promising to table legislation that would allow employers to request proof of a coronavirus vaccination without fear of a legal challenge. While few details were provided during the election campaign, the legislation would pertain to vaccination requirements for employees and customers, according to a press release.
The Conservative Party is pledging to extend EI parental benefits for at least eight weeks to parents experiencing the trauma of a miscarriage, stillbirth or loss of a child. The benefits would be extended for at least eight weeks following the death of a child. Currently, EI parental benefits end immediately following the death of a child; however, women whose pregnancies end before the 20-week mark can receive sickness benefits and, if they lose a child after that time, they may be able to receive maternity benefits.
The key part of the federal government’s 2021 budget was a $10-per-day national childcare system, which is at the centre of the Liberals’ promise to working parents in this election. However, the Conservative Party is promising to scrap these plans and convert the current childcare expense deduction into a refundable tax credit that covers up to 75 per cent of the cost of childcare for lower income families.
The NDP is also pledging to work with the provinces to build a universal, $10-a-day childcare system; the Green Party plans to work with the provinces, territories and local communities to build a more affordable universal childcare system; and the Bloc Québécois said it’s happy with Quebec’s current childcare system, which is less per day than what both the Liberals and the NDP have proposed.