Ontario’s electoral candidates stressed the need to simplify securities regulation at a debate last week, but fumbled a simple question about OBSI’s powers.
The Toronto Financial Services Alliance event featured representatives from each major party. The NDP incumbent for Beaches – East York, Michael Prue, stressed the need to create jobs, combat poverty and invest in infrastructure.
Charles Sousa, the Ontario minister of finance and Liberal candidate for Mississauga South, attacked the Conservatives’ planned budget cuts and stressed the need for increased investment in transit.
Vic Fedeli, the PC incumbent for Nipissing, bemoaned the province’s $12.5-billion deficit and cited rising hydro rates, high taxes and red tape as the factors most harmful to Ontario families today.
When asked whether OBSI should have real enforcement powers, the candidates gave vague answers.
Sousa: “The ombudsman is there to protect consumers. […] Every bank has one,”
Fedeli: “People need to be able to put their heads on their pillows at night and know that their money and investments are safe.”
Prue: “Someone always needs to have a person or a body to go to if they feel the system isn’t working for them.”
Here’s a rundown of their positions on other topics.
The Canada Life and Health Insurance Association asked what role the financial sector should play in closing retirement savings shortfalls, which 23% of Ontarians expect to see.
Sousa responded, “Two-thirds of Ontarians don’t have a workplace pension plan, and many of them are reliant on only CPP and OAS when they retire. […] What we need is a supplementary plan, which is why we are introducing the Ontario Retirement Plan.”
Prue disagreed, saying it was more important for Ontarians to understand their retirement savings options. He also advocated improving CPP to increase potential payout.
Fedeli advocated for PRPPs, which he said “create a simple, easy-to-use system for automatic saving. We need to expand the number of workplaces able to offer pension plans to their employees.”
The Investment Funds Institute of Canada asked candidates if they would move forward with a cooperative capital markets regulator. All three said yes. “The deal was struck in my office,” said Sousa, with Prue adding, “we want to work with you to make sure that financial regulations are simplified, but they have to be done in a way that protects investors and the public at the same time.”
Capital tax on financial institutions
The Canadian Bankers Association asked whether the parties plan to reinstate a general capital tax or a capital tax on financial institutions. Sousa stated the Liberals removed such taxes in the first place, and won’t bring them back.
Fedeli responded the Conservatives have no plan to bring back the capital tax, and Prue stated, “If you look in our campaign budget, you will find no reference to [a capital tax].”
The Association of Canadian Pension Management asked how the parties would support private sector defined-benefit plans. Prue focused his answer on the NDP goal of enhancing the CPP, saying, “We know $1,200 [a month] is not enough to sustain people during retirement.”
Sousa stated, “There is an entire section in our budget devoted to our plan to make DB plans more sustainable.”
Fedeli, on the other hand, stressed the need to create different types of retirement funds: “Many plans have responded to unfunded liabilities by increasing contribution rates. The issue is that contribution rates are now at the upper tier of what the province can practically afford,” he said.
The Credit Unions of Ontario asked what the parties would do to promote domestic investment in Ontario by supporting the growth of local credit unions.
Fedeli called himself “a northern boy” and stressed the need for credit unions to aid rural small businesses. Prue agreed that credit unions are a preferred banking method for many Ontarians, and thus the NDP would hold firm on current credit union tax rates, and increase deposit insurance limits for credit unions.
Sousa stated the Liberals have supported credit unions thus far, and plan to completely update the 1994 legislation still in place.