British Columbia mulls small-business pension fund

Fri Oct 24, 2008 6:35pm EDT
 
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Details of British Columbia's proposal to create a group pension fund for businesses that can't offer their own plans will take a while to work out, the province's finance minister said on Friday.

The plan, unveiled by Premier Gordon Campbell on Wednesday, called for a privately financed, defined-contribution fund for the estimated 75 percent of private sector workers in the province who don't have access to group pension plans.

"We believe it's something that's timely. We've certainly heard from small and medium-size businesses that they would love to offer their employees a pension as part of a benefits package," provincial Finance Minister Colin Hansen said in an interview.

The fund would be the first of its kind in Canada, and Hansen said he is not aware of any similar pension fund systems in the United States.

The proposal is expected to be among the recommendations of to be released later this year a special joint British Columbia-Alberta task force that is reviewing pension standards in the two western provinces.

Hansen said the tentative plan is for the province to spearhead the fund and regulate it, but it would be privately managed. Businesses and self-employed workers would be allowed to join on a voluntary basis.

"I would hope that we would be able to flesh out the details by next spring.... It would be too optimistic have this in place a year from now, but I hope we would be well down the road at getting there," he said.

Hansen said that although the recommendation is coming from a joint provincial task force, that did not mean Alberta would automatically be involved in the plan.

A spokesman for Alberta Finance said they were aware the task force was expected to recommend such a fund, and the province would look at the idea as a possible way to increase workers' access to pensions.

Campbell announced the idea as part of a series of proposal to help British Columbia weather the global economic storm.

(Reporting Allan Dowd, editing by Rob Wilson)

 
<p>British Columbia's Premier Gordon Campbell speaks during a news conference after the Council of the Federation at the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City, July 18, 2008. REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger</p>