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Pension regulators across Canada respond to COVID-19

 

This round-up of the COVID-19 relief offered by pension regulators was co-authored by Melanie Anderson, one of our 2019-2020 articling students.

Are pension and benefits funds taking steps to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic? Yes, many pension regulators across the country are responding to the crisis. This post summarizes the regulatory relief announced by pension regulators across Canada, as of May 7, 2020.

Ontario

The Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario (FSRA) is allowing plan administrators to request filing deadline extensions of up to 60 days through the Pension Services Portal or, for longer extensions, by writing to their assigned Pension Officer.

The FSRA has not extended deadlines for member disclosures. However, if a plan administrator informs their assigned Pension Officer of the challenges in complying with the prescribed timelines, and provides a reasonable proposed course of action, the FSRA will not levy the summary administrative penalties for non-compliance until further notice.

The Government of Ontario has amended the General Regulation for Pension Benefits Guarantee Fund (PBGF) assessments. The amendment provides that employers who are late on PBGF assessments due between April 30 and December 31, 2020 must pay the amount plus interest, which is equal to 3% plus the chartered banks’ rate on prime business loans on the date the amount is due. Usually, employers who submit late PBGF assessments must pay 120% of the amount plus such interest

Canada

On March 27, 2020, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) announced adjustments to its policies relating to federally-regulated pension plans. To protect members and beneficiaries, the OSFI has placed a temporary freeze on portability transfers and annuity purchases relating to defined benefit provisions of pension plans. For plan administrators, the OSFI has extended deadlines for annual filing and reporting requirements. The OSFI will consider extensions to the deadlines for individual member statements, such as statements on termination, retirement or death, on a case-by-case basis.

On April 15, the Government of Canada announced that it will provide immediate, temporary relief to sponsors of federally regulated, defined benefit pension plans. This relief will be in the form of a moratorium on solvency payment requirements for defined benefit plans until the end of 2020. The relief will not be available until special regulations are in force, so sponsors should be aware that normal solvency funding requirements continue to apply until then.

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has announced two forms of relief for pension plans. On May 1, the CRA announced that, for defined contribution and defined benefit plans, the deadline for filing eligible periods of reduced pay that ended in 2019 has been extended to June 1, 2020, and may be extended further by request. On May 5, the CRA announced the rule that employers with defined contribution plans must contribute at least 1% of the total pensionable earnings of all active members for the remainder of 2020 has been waived, as long as the plan is amended so that accruals under the plan are suspended for the year (i.e. neither the employer nor the employee are making contributions for the remainder of 2020).

British Columbia

The British Columbia Financial Services Authority (BCFSA) has extended several deadlines for pension plan administrators effective March 30, 2020. Deadlines arising for the remainder of the year for issuing Annual Statements to members or for filing Annual Information Returns, Financial Information Returns, and Financial Statements with the BCFSA are automatically extended by 180 days. Deadlines to prepare Termination of Active Membership Statements may be extended on a case-by-case basis, although the March 30, 2020 deadline for Collectively Bargained Multi-Employer Plans was automatically extended by 30 days. The filing deadlines for Actuarial Valuation Reports and Actuarial Information Summaries are extended by 90 days for plans with a review date between December 31, 2019 and December 31, 2020.

Alberta

The Superintendent of Pensions has extended upcoming deadlines for all pension plans. Where the deadline for a document or action would have been between March 31 and July 1, 2020, plan administrators now have an additional 180 days to file certain documents with the Superintendent of Pensions and to issue annual statements to members, and an additional 90 days to issue plan summaries and member-driven event disclosure statements to members. Requests for extensions to other deadlines may be considered by the Superintendent’s Office on a case-by-case basis.

Saskatchewan

The Financial and Consumer Affairs Authority has announced automatic three-month extensions for plan administrators to file their Annual Information Return, to pay the associated fee, and to provide members with their Annual Statements, where these documents or fees would normally be due between March 31 and July 31, 2020.

Manitoba

No information available as of May 7.

Quebec

Retraite Québec (RQ) has not yet announced any regulatory relief for pension plan administrators. However, it has indicated that it will be assessing the situation and will consider temporary measures to ease the administrative burden of pension plan management during this crisis.

New Brunswick

The Financial and Consumer Services Commission announced that the Superintendent of Pensions has extended the time limit for filing any Annual Information Returns and Actuarial Valuation Reports due to be filed prior to April 30, 2020 by 30 days. The Superintendent has not announced any other administrative changes.

On April 14, 2020 the Financial and Consumer Services New Brunswick published an update providing guidance on Annual Information Returns and Actuarial Valuation Reports, extending the time limit for filing information returns and valuation reports due to be filed prior to April 30, 2020 by 30 days.

Nova Scotia

The Finance and Treasury Board announced an automatic extension of filing deadlines. This means that Annual Information Returns and Audited Financial Statements that would be due between March 31 and June 30, 2020 are now due August 31, 2020. Plan administrators who have concerns about other filing deadlines may contact the pension regulator directly by email.

Newfoundland & Labrador

On April 6, 2020, Service NL announced that the pension administrators may request filing extensions for Annual Information Returns due between March 31 and June 30, 2020. The extensions are not automatic; pension administrators must make such requests by email to the Superintendent of Pensions.

Questions? Contact any of our pension lawyers.