Remarks by the Chief Actuary of Canada, Jean-Claude Ménard, to the Senate Standing Committee on National Finance, Ottawa, Ontario, June 8, 2016

Introduction

Good morning, Mr. Chairperson, Honourable members of the Committee. Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today.

Mandate and activities of the Office of the Chief Actuary

The Office of the Chief Actuary (OCA) is an independent unit within the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) that provides a range of actuarial valuation and advisory services to the Government of Canada. While I report to the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, I am solely responsible for the content and actuarial opinions reflected in the reports prepared by my office. The OCA plays an important role in helping decision-makers’, Parliamentarians’ and the public’s understanding of some of the risks associated with the public pension arrangements by providing checks and balances on the future costs of the different pension plans under its responsibilities.

As part of its mandate, the OCA conducts statutory actuarial valuations of the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), Old Age Security (OAS) program, federal public sector employee pension and insurance plans and the Canada Student Loans Program (CSLP). Since 2012, the OCA is also responsible for preparing the statutory actuarial report on the Employment Insurance (EI) premium rate. The purpose of these actuarial valuations is to determine the financial status of the plans and to assist the stakeholders in making informed decisions regarding the financing of these programs.

Access to microdata

In addition to its statutory responsibilities, the OCA also provides sound actuarial advice and estimates to various clients, including federal, provincial and territorial Ministers of Finance and Employment and Social Development Canada. Such estimates include those on considered design changes to the CPP, OAS, and other programs. The OCA is also asked to prepare analyses of interactions between the CPP and OAS, as well as with other components of the Canadian retirement income system.  The rapidly changing Canadian pension landscape has resulted in an increase in the number and complexity of valuation requests received by the OCA with respect to these two programs.

Relevant, complete, and reliable data are a cornerstone of good actuarial work. It is thus of the utmost importance for the OCA to have access to the microdata necessary to develop reliable short-term and long-term assumptions in order to project the financial status of the CPP, OAS, and other programs falling under the OCA’s statutory responsibilities, as well as to assess the impacts of design changes on these programs.

The OCA is fully cognizant of the sensitivity of the information prepared and provided by the Canada Revenue Agency as well as other data providers. Along with the OSFI-wide policies on information security, the OCA has its own procedures. For instance and importantly, access to files containing microdata is restricted.

The OCA follows the principle of minimum data collection by collecting only the information that is necessary to perform its work. Finally, even in the case when the OCA is allowed by law to receive individual information, the OCA policy is never to ask for any personal information such as the Social Insurance Number, name, or address.

Let me conclude by reiterating that the availability of the proper data, including most importantly microdata, is essential for the OCA to be able to fulfill its statutory obligations, provide high quality services to our clients, and ensure that the actuarial reports produced by the office are of the highest professional quality.

Thank you for the opportunity to appear before this Committee. I would be pleased to answer any questions that you might have.