Benefits and Pension Legislative Updates for March 2018

British Columbia

Chronic Hep.C medication now available for all British Columbians. In addition to expanding coverage to all British Columbians, a new chronic Hep.C drug has been added to the PharmaCare formulary. Source: BC PharmaCare Newsletter (opens as a pdf).

 

Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan Cannabis Framework released. The government of Saskatchewan is releasing its framework for cannabis legalization and outlining a plan for legal and responsible distribution, and sale and use of cannabis in the province. For more information visit The Government of Saskatchewan website.

 

Manitoba

Legislative amendments to address pending legalization of cannabis. Changes Proposed to Drugged Driving, Outdoor Public Smoking Laws. In preparation for federal legalization of recreational cannabis, the Manitoba government is moving forward with further legislative amendments which would regulate the use of the drug in public places and on roads. Changes to the Non-Smokers Health Protection and Vapour Products Act are consistent with the approach taken to alcohol consumption under the Liquor and Gaming Control Act. Source: The Government of Manitoba website.

 

Ontario

Making Prescription Drugs free for People 65 and over.  Expanding OHIP+ will make prescription drugs free for nearly one in two Ontarians. Through an expansion of OHIP+, more than 4,400 prescription drugs will be available free of charge to everyone 65 and over. Starting August 1, 2019, anyone aged 65 and over will no longer have to pay a deductible or co-payment and would be able to present their eligible OHIP number at any Ontario pharmacy and receive medication for free. Prescription drugs covered by this program include medications for cholesterol, hypertension, thyroid conditions, diabetes and asthma. Source: The Province of Ontario website.

New Rules Mandating Equal Pay for Equal Work effective April 1, 2018.  On April 1, 2018, Ontario will become the first jurisdiction in North America to mandate equal pay for equal work between casual, part-time, temporary and seasonal workers, and full-time or permanent workers. For more information, visit The Province of Ontario website.

Ontario supporting Municipalities to ensure safe transition to federal cannabis legalization.  Ontario is stepping up support for municipalities and law enforcement to help ensure communities and roads are safe in advance of the federal government’s legalization of cannabis. Source: The Government of Ontario website.

 

New Brunswick

Expansion of Healthy Smiles, Clear Vision Program begins April 1.  Free eye exams and corrective glasses for all four-year-olds who are not covered by a public or private health insurance program begins April 1. For those with existing health insurance, the program will cover any difference between the amount covered by the insurance policy and the maximum allowed under the program. Source: The Government of New Brunswick website.

Revised Income Support and Training Services for EI claimants affected by gap in benefits. A federally-funded program will provide immediate income support and training for residents who experience a gap between employment insurance (EI) benefits and their seasonal employment. The Seasonal Worker Program Pilot Project, administered by the Department of Post-Secondary Education Training and Labour, will offer a seven-week training or work experience program for employees in the fisheries, agriculture, forestry and tourism industries in EI Economic Region 09. For more information visit: The Government of New Brunswick website.

 

Newfoundland & Labrador

WorkplaceNL has modernized its mental stress policy (EN-18) to recognize that work-related mental health issues may be caused by exposure to multiple traumatic events. The policy now includes events that are an inherent part of an occupation, such as first responders witnessing fatalities. Source: WorkplaceNL website.

 

Prince Edward Island

Province announces framework for cannabis legalization.  PEI’s approach to legalizing and regulating cannabis will focus on helping islanders make an informed choice while reducing the illegal market.  A new document, Cannabis Legalization:  A Policy and Legislative Framework for Prince Edward Island brings together government decisions and direction.  It includes information on purchasing, possessing, and consuming cannabis; education and awareness activities, impaired driving information, household cultivation and enforcement.  Source: The Government of Prince Edward Island website.

 

North West Territories

Income Security Benefits. Starting April 1, 2018, the NWT government will implement enhancements to the Senior Home Heating Subsidy. For more information visit: The Government of Northwest Territories website.

 

Pension

 

Alberta

Defined Benefit Funding Relief Provisions 2018.  In accordance with Section 5 of the Employment Pension Plans Act, the Superintendent of Pensions is now accepting applications from defined benefit pension plan administrators to extend the solvency deficiency amortization period by up to ten years. This relief is intended to assist plan sponsors with the financial pressures associated with the ongoing low interest rate environment. Source: EPPA Update 18-01.

 

Ontario

Reform of Ontario’s Funding Rules for Defined Benefit Pension Plans.  Description of Proposed Changes to Pension Benefits Guarantee Fund (PBGF) Assessments.  Regulation 909. The posted document provides details of the proposed amendments to the PBGF assessment formula in Regulation 909 under the Pension Benefits Act.  Proposed reforms to the PBGF assessment formula include an increase to the current risk-based component, the addition of a new component based on a plan’s PBGF liabilities (such as solvency liabilities in respect of Ontario plan beneficiaries) that is structured to reduce PBGF assessment volatility and the elimination of certain other assessment components, such as the basic assessment per member, to reduce complexity. Source: The Government of Ontario’s Regulatory Registry.

Permitting the Payment of Variable Benefits from Defined Contribution (DC) Pension Plans. Currently, plan members who belong to a pension plan that provides Defined Contribution (DC) benefits must transfer the balance in their DC account to a financial institution in order to receive a retirement income. The variable benefits provisions in the Pension Benefits Act (PBA) would permit a pension plan that provides DC benefits to offer Life Income Fund (LIF)-like payments directly from the plan through the establishment of a variable benefit account. Regulations are required to proclaim the variable benefits provisions in the PBA into force. The posted document provides a description of these proposed regulations which would address: requirements and restrictions that the DC provision of a pension plan must include to authorize a variable benefits pension; requirements and restrictions regarding transfers in and transfers out of a variable benefit account; timelines related to the death benefit; the administrator's disclosure obligations; and other miscellaneous items.

Plan administrators would have the option of providing variable benefits pensions from the DC provision of their pension plans. Retired members would have the option to choose these payments if their plan offers them. Since these benefits would be optional, administrative costs to business would not increase as a result of this regulatory proposal unless a business chooses to offer variable benefits and the retiree elects to receive a variable benefit pension. Source:  Regulation LGIC, March 26 Regulation.

 

Quebec

Passage of Bill 149 enhancing the Quebec Pension Plan. The Quebec National Assembly has adopted Bill 149, the Act to enhance the Quebec Pension Plan and to amend various retirement-related legislative provisions. For more information visit the Government of Quebec website.

Amendments to the Regulation respecting supplemental pension plans effective January 4, 2018, follows the passage of the Act to amend the Supplemental Pension Plans Act mainly with respect to the funding of defined benefit pension plans (2015, chapter 29), which came into force on January 1, 2016. The person or body that can amend the plan must adopt a funding policy by January 4, 2019.  This rule applies to every defined benefit plan. The purpose of the funding policy is to establish the principles related to plan funding that must guide the administrator in the performance of his or her duties. For more information visit the Government of Quebec website.