Remarks by Jean-Claude Ménard, Chief Actuary Office of the Chief Actuary, to the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) Seminar on Demographic, Economic and Investment Perspectives for Canada (Years 2012 to 2050), Ottawa, Ontario, 28 September 2012

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome, everyone to the CPP Seminar.

By way of introduction, I am Jean-Claude Ménard, Chief Actuary of the Canada Pension Plan, the Old Age Security Program, the federal public sector pension plans, and the Canada Student Loans Program.

There are many people here today from various organizations and federal and provincial government departments. There are in fact too many to list. However, I would like to mention that there are officials from the Ministries of Finance of six provinces and one territory who were able to attend. Thank you to all for joining us today.

In the past, we have usually held a CPP seminar once every three years. To date, there have been four such seminars, the first one occurring in March 2000 and the most recent in March 2006. Three years ago in September 2009, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, together with the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, co-hosted the 16th International Conference of Social Security Actuaries and Statisticians here in Ottawa. The Conference covered four themes relating to longevity improvements and the sustainability of social security schemes, optimal financing and self-adjusting mechanisms for sustainable retirement systems, the financial crisis and its impact on the long-term sustainability of pension plans, and assumptions in the actuarial evaluation process. International experts in the fields of actuarial science, statistics, and economics discussed issues affecting social security systems around the globe. The Conference thus took the place of a CPP seminar at the time.

The time has gone by so quickly since then that we are now at our fifth CPP seminar. I and my team strongly believe that we should consult with experts such as demographers, economists and investment risk managers before setting the assumptions to be used in our actuarial reports.

Today’s seminar is held specifically for the purpose of obtaining input that will assist me and my team in establishing the assumptions for the 26th Canada Pension Plan actuarial report as at the end of this year.

Our main objective at our CPP seminars is to consult with experts before setting the assumptions to be used in the actuarial reports. It is important, when developing demographic and economic assumptions, to keep a long-term view and not be unduly swayed by short-term trends. However, the final assumptions must also take into account the short and mid-term trends so as to properly project the financial status of the Plan over the next few years.

In previous seminars, distinguished speakers gave excellent presentations and reports focussing on one of the biggest challenges that Canada will face in the coming decades: the aging of the labour force.

Our last triennial actuarial report, as at 31 December 2009, was the fifth one after the full implementation of the amendments agreed upon by the federal, provincial, and territorial governments in 1997. What has happened since then?

Since then, there have been amendments made to the Plan, including the operationalization of the full funding requirement for any improved or new benefits, and more recently the amendments made to the Plan under the 2009 Economic Recovery Act (stimulus), namely removal of the work cessation test, an increase in the general drop-out provision and actuarial adjustment factors, and the requirement of beneficiaries aged 60 to 64 who work to contribute to the Plan and in return receive an increase in their retirement benefit. The effects of these amendments were evaluated and reported, most recently in the 25th actuarial report.

The federal, provincial, and territorial finance ministers also endorsed plans to establish regular peer reviews of actuarial reports on the CPP. We are all in agreement that it is of utmost importance that the credibility of the information presented in such reports be indisputable.

To further increase the credibility of the peer review of the 21st Report, the Auditor General at the time suggested using an actuarial organization from another country to oversee the peer review. The United Kingdom Government Actuary’s Department (GAD), which is internationally well known for its work and research in the field of social security, accepted the challenge. GAD selected the independent Canadian actuaries who performed the peer review, and provided an opinion on the work done by the reviewers once the peer review was completed. Since then, the GAD has also overseen the peer reviews of the last three reports.

In each case, as was also done for the earlier reviews of the 17th and 18th triennial CPP actuarial reports, the peer reviews were made public and all are available on our Web site. In the most recent independent peer review of the 25th actuarial report on the CPP, the reviewers state that they found the assumptions, both individually and in aggregate, to be within a reasonable range, in accordance with the Canadian Institute of Actuaries’ standard, and that the methods used were also reasonable.

Three of the assumptions were found to be near the centre of the range, while one assumption was found to be more conservative, and five assumptions less conservative compared to what the reviewers would have chosen. Overall, the best-estimate assumptions in aggregate were found to be within the reasonable range, but less conservative compared to what the peer reviewers would have chosen.

The reviews were always prepared by three-member panels of independent actuaries, all enrolled with or Fellows of the Canadian Institute of Actuaries. I invited past reviewers to attend this seminar for their interest and further discussions with you. I am pleased that Mr. Patrick Flanagan was able to attend and to see him with us today.

To ensure ongoing quality, my office will continue to commission external peer reviews to ensure that our CPP actuarial reports meet high professional standards of practice and provide sound actuarial advice to Members of Parliament and the Canadian public.

The Office of the Chief Actuary is responsible for conducting the actuarial valuations of the CPP. The first step consists of projecting the population for Canada less Québec on the basis of demographic assumptions for fertility, mortality, and migration. In general, total contributory earnings are determined by applying to the projected population assumed proportions of contributors (theoretically based on labour force participation rates and unemployment levels) and average employment earnings increases.

The retirement of the baby boomers, which has begun, as well as the general aging of the population, make demographic and economic projections difficult, especially regarding the assumption for the proportion of contributors to the Plan. For these reasons, it was decided to consult with demographic and economic experts for their views on long-term perspectives.

This morning, our first speaker is Dr. Donald Raymond, who is Senior Vice-President and Chief Investment Strategist at the CPP Investment Board. Dr. Raymond will discuss the mandate of the Board and describe how the executive team develops its investment strategy using an asset-liability model with input assumptions and scenarios to optimally invest the Plan’s assets, thereby minimizing the risk of loss or that the legislated contribution rate becomes insufficient. Dr. Raymond will also discuss the Board’s near and longer-term projections for various asset class returns.

Our second speaker, Mr. Jean-Pierre Aubry, Associate Fellow with the Centre interuniversitaire de recherche en analyse des organisations, or CIRANO, will talk about how the economic environment of the last five years has influenced the choice of long-term economic assumptions. Mr. Aubry will discuss the reasons for the slow recovery of the economy and what has been learned from the situation of the last five years. He will then give some comments about the choice of assumptions for long-term projections, more specifically regarding inflation, participation rates, the retirement age, productivity and real wages, as well as the real rate of return.

This afternoon, we will hear from Mr. James McNamee, Director of Immigration Strategies and Analysis of the Strategic Policy and Planning branch of Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Mr. McNamee will describe the immigration program in Canada including current policy objectives and recent statistics relating to different classes. He will discuss immigration trends that have occurred here and speak to the impact of immigration on the population’s growth and age structure, and the labour force and market.

Following that presentation, our fourth speaker will be Dr. Peter Dungan, Adjunct Associate Professor of Business Economics at the University of Toronto and Director of the U of T’s Rotman School of Management’s Policy and Economic Analysis Program (PEAP). Dr. Dungan will discuss the PEAP’s long-term economic outlook for Canada and issues relating to it. Specifically, he will discuss population growth, labour force growth and productivity, real-wage growth, real returns and inflation, the nation’s debt and savings relative to the GDP, and revenues and expenditures of the CPP and QPP relative to the GDP. He will then conclude with a comparative analysis of the PEAP’s outlook made twenty years ago with how actual experience has developed since then.

As in the past, we have invited journalists, and some are present today. I encourage their presence as they have an important and privileged role with the public in explaining the main findings presented in various actuarial reports. Feel free to interact with them during this seminar.

There are two things that make a seminar productive: first, the quality of our speakers and their particular expertise and second, your active participation. That is why I encourage your questions and welcome your contributions. The success of this seminar is already guaranteed by the quality of our speakers. But we can improve it even further by interacting with them.

To facilitate discussion and allow everyone to express themselves in the language of their choice, interpretation and headsets are available. When you ask questions or make comments, I would appreciate you stating your name and affiliation. If you need anything throughout the day, please do not hesitate to ask my assistant, Lyse Lacourse, or me.

I now call on Mathieu Désy, who is an Actuary in our office, to come forward and introduce our first speaker.

I wish you an excellent seminar.