Harry Arthurs gets a new assignment – pension reform

Harry ArthursUniversity Professor Emeritus Harry Arthurs, former president of York and former dean of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, has been given yet another challenging assignment in recognition of his ability and expertise as a noted academic and labour law expert.

Ontario Finance Minister Greg Sorbara announced Nov. 9 that Arthurs will chair the Ontario Expert Commission on Pensions, the first review of the province’s Pension Benefits Act in 20 years. The purpose of the review is to ensure that Ontario’s pension regulations system is up to date and sustainable.

Right: Harry Arthurs

Arthurs recently completed a major report for the federal government on the Canadian Labour Code. On this assignment, he will be working with a four-member review panel, which will hold consultations with individuals and groups across the province, and is expected to report back in the summer of 2008.

Arthurs served as dean of Osgoode from 1972 to 1977 and as president of York from 1985 to 1992. He has written, edited and contributed to hundreds of scholarly articles, reports and research documents and served on the boards of numerous educational and professional organizations, earning many professional honours and awards along the way. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, an Officer of the Order of Canada and a recipient of the Bora Laskin Award for Distinguished Contribution to Labour Law.

Kathryn BushOsgoode alumna Kathryn Bush (left) (LLB ‘82), a lawyer in the Pension and Employee Benefits Group of Blake, Cassels and Graydon, and a former vice-chair of the Financial Services Tribunal and the Pension Commission of Ontario, has been appointed a member of the review panel.

Bush is cited in The Canadian Legal Lexpert Directory as a “leading practitioner” in pension and benefits law, and is listed in Canadian Who’s Who. In the inaugural edition of The Best Lawyers in Canada, published in June 2006, Bush was voted as one of the leading lawyers in Canada in a peer-review survey. Bush has written on a wide range of topics in the areas of income taxation and pension and employee benefits.

Through consultation with individuals and groups across the province, the Arthurs panel will review Ontario’s pension system to determine how best to ensure that plan members and pensioners have pension plans they can count on.

“Our mandate is to talk to pension stakeholders and interested individuals to solicit their views and provide advice to the government to ensure that the province’s pension laws are up-to-date,” Arthurs wrote in the introduction to the new commission’s Web site.

The review will focus on:

  • the importance of maintaining and encouraging the system of defined benefit pension plans in Ontario;
  • the importance of maintaining the affordability of defined benefit pension plans for both members and sponsors;
  • the importance of pension plans in supporting a competitive economy;
  • the need to safeguard the security of pension benefits;
  • the need to balance the rights and obligations of employers, plan members and pensioners;
  • and the impact of demographics and the changing nature of the workforce on the provision of employment pensions.

The government also announced that it is extending the current pension surplus sharing regulation until 2009. For more information, visit the Ontario Expert Commission on Pensions’ Web site.