A modernized Pension Benefits Standards Act (Bill 38) is up for Cabinet approval in the fall when the B.C. Legislature reconvenes.
Hardship clauses for seniors and pensioners are included in the rules and regulations of the modernized act, which authorizes the possibility of unlocking funds transferred from pension plans.
“There has to be extenuating circumstances,” federal Minister of State for Finance Kevin Sorenson said during a tour of the Comox Valley. “The trouble is, pension plans are put in place so that they have security and a dignified retirement in the long-term. When you take access of a pension fund, it can cause grief.”
While seniors are living longer, Sorenson said pension funds are not stretching as far as people might wish. Caution is exercised with early access of funds, but he said it can be done.
He notes many pensions are provincially regulated, though about 1,200 fall under federal jurisdiction, including Crown corporations.
“Those we’re watching,” Sorenson said, noting pensions have taken a hit in the wake of a global economic downturn. “There’s lots of issues around pensions right now, but our government is looking for ways to help retirees have a more dignified retirement. That’s why we brought forward the tax-free savings account, that’s why we’ve brought forward new ideas like the Pooled-Registered Pension Plan (PRPP) — looking for ways that Canadians can help save earlier and longer, and have more in their retirement years.”