Canada Pension Plan

The Canada Pension Plan (CPP) (French: Régime de pensions du Canada) is a contributory, earnings-related social insurance program. It forms one of the two major components of Canada's public retirement income system, the other component being Old Age Security (OAS). Other parts of Canada's retirement system are private pensions, either employer-sponsored or from tax-deferred individual savings (known in Canada as a Registered Retirement Savings Plan).[1] As of June 30, 2016, the CPP Investment Board manages over C$287.3 billion in investment assets for the Canada Pension Plan on behalf of 19 million Canadians,[2] making it among the ten largest sovereign wealth funds in the world.


The CPP program mandates all employed Canadians who are 18 years of age and over to contribute a prescribed portion of their earnings income to a nationally administered pension plan. The plan is administered by Human Resources and Social Development Canada on behalf of employees in all provinces and territories except Quebec, which operates an equivalent plan, the Quebec Pension Plan. Changes to the CPP require the approval of at least ⅔ of Canadian provinces representing at least ⅔ of the country's population.[3] In addition, under section 94A of the Canadian Constitution, pensions are a provincial responsibility, so any province may establish a plan anytime.


The Liberal government of Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson in 1965 first established the Canadian Pension Plan.

CPP Benefits

When the contributor reaches the normal retirement age of 65, the CPP provides regular pension benefit payments to the contributor, equal to 25% of the earnings on which CPP contributions were made over the entire working life of a contributor from age 18 to 65 in constant dollars.[4] There is a general drop out provision that enables the lower-earnings years in a contributor's contributory period to be dropped from the calculation of the average. In 2014, the lowest 17% of earnings will be dropped in this way, accounting for up to eight years of contributory earnings.

In March 2016, average monthly benefits for new retirement pension (taken at age 65) was just over $550.00 per month and the maximum amount was $1,092.50. Monthly benefits are adjusted every year based on the Consumer Price Index. CPP benefit payments are taxable as ordinary income.

An application must be filed at least six months in advance in order to receive CPP benefits, and there is a provision for starting benefits anytime between the age of 60 to 70. Benefits are adjusted accordingly. Historically, the adjustment rate was 0.5% for each month before or after one's 65th birthday. From 2012 to 2016, the Plan is gradually changing the early pension reduction from 0.5% to 0.6% for each month you receive it before age 65. This means that by 2016, an individual who starts receiving their CPP retirement pension at the age of 60 will receive 36% less than if they had taken it at 65. Conversely, as of 2013, the adjustment rate for retiring after age 65 has increased to 0.7% for each month that one delays in receiving it up to age 70 (8.4% per year).[5]

The CPP also provides disability pensions to eligible workers who become disabled in a severe and prolonged fashion, and survivor benefits to survivors of workers who die before they begin receiving retirement benefits. If an application for disability pension is denied, an appeal can be made for reconsideration, and then to the Canada Pension Plan / Old Age Security Review Tribunals or Pension Appeals Boards (POA).

Contribution Rates

1966 to 1986

From 1966 to 1986, the contribution rate was 3.6%. The rate was 1.8% for employees (and a like amount for their employers) and 3.6% in respect of self-employed earnings.

1986 - Present

CPP contribution rates have increased from 3.6% to 9.9% during the period of 1987 to 2003.

By the mid-1990s, the 3.6% contribution rate was not sufficient to keep up with Canada’s aging population.[6] and it was concluded that the "pay-as-you-go" structure would lead to excessively high contribution rates within 20 years or so, due to Canada's changing demographics, increased life expectancy of Canadians, a changing economy, benefit improvements and increased usage of disability benefits (all as referenced in the Chief Actuary's study of April 2007, noted above). The same study reports that the reserve fund was expected to run out by 2015. This impending pension crisis sparked an extensive review by the federal and provincial governments in 1996. As a part of the major review process, the federal government actively conducted consultations with the Canadian public to solicit suggestions, recommendations, and proposals on how the CPP could be restructured to achieve sustainability once again. As a direct result of this public consultation process and internal review of the CPP, the following key changes were proposed and jointly approved by the Federal and provincial governments in 1997:

Currently, the prescribed employee contribution rate was 4.95% of a salaried worker's gross employment income between $3,500 and $51,100, up to a maximum contribution of $2,356.20. The employer matches the employee contribution, effectively doubling the contributions of the employee. Self-employed workers must pay both halves of the contribution, or 9.9% of pensionable income, when filing their income tax return. These rates have been in effect since 2003.



The CPP is funded on a "steady-state" basis, with its current contribution rate set so that it will remain constant for the next 75 years, by accumulating a reserve fund sufficient to stabilize the asset/expenditure and funding ratios over time. Such a system is a hybrid between a fully funded one and a "pay-as-you-go" plan. In other words, assets held in the CPP fund are by themselves insufficient to pay for all future benefits accrued to date but sufficient to prevent contributions from rising any further. While a sustainable path for this particular plan, given the indefinite existence of a government, it is not typical of other public or private sector pension plans. A study published in April 2007 by the CPP's chief actuary showed that this type of funding method is "robust and appropriate" given reasonable assumptions about future conditions.[7]

The chief actuary submits a report to Parliament every three years on the financial status of the plan.


As noted in the 27th Actuarial Report on the Canada Pension Plan, if one uses the 'closed group approach', the Canada Pension Plan has an enormous unfunded liability. As at December 31, 2015, the unfunded liability was $884 billion, which is the difference between CPP's liabilities of $1.169 trillion and the CPP's assets of $285 billion.[8]

Unfunded liability

The unfunded liability is increasing at a rate of about $25 billion per year. The unfunded liabilities reported in the last few Actuarial Reports are:

......Year........Actuarial Report ......Unfunded Liability

Using the 'open group approach' ("one that includes all current and future participants of a plan, where the plan is considered to be ongoing into the future, that is, over an extended time horizon") the plan is reported to have assets in excess of $2.5 trillion.[13] This approach uses a different definition of the term "assets". "Assets" are the sum of: (i) the CPP's current assets and (ii) the present value of future contributions for the next 150 years, totalling $2.544 trillion.[14]

Unlike most pension plans, the unfunded liability is not reported on the balance sheet of the Canada Pension Plan's financial statements. [15] Consequently, the balance sheet reports that the CPP's assets exceed its liabilities by $269 billion as at March 31, 2015.

Fluctuations in the projected CPP contributions

The projections in the actuarial reports fluctuate over time. For example, as at Dec 31, 1997 the projected contributions for the year 2040 were $170 billion. [16] However, in the Dec 31, 2015 actuarial report the projected contributions for the year 2040 were only $117 billion. [17]

The projected CPP contributions for 2040 were:

Similar reductions were reported for all other forecast years.

Fluctuations in the projected return on investments

The projected return on investment on CPP assets has decreased over time. The projected long-term returns were:

CPP Investment Board

Main article: CPP Investment Board

Under the direction of then Finance Minister Paul Martin, the CPP Investment Board (CPPIB) was created in 1997 as an organization independent of the government to monitor and invest the funds held by the CPP. In turn, the CPP Investment Board created the CPP Reserve Fund. The CPP Investment Board is a crown corporation created by an Act of Parliament. It reports quarterly on its performance, has a professional management team to oversee the operation of various aspects of the CPP reserve fund and also to plan changes in direction, and a board of directors that is accountable to but independent from the federal government. The board reports annually to Parliament through the federal Minister of Finance.[30]

Quebec Pension Plan (QPP)

Quebec is the only province in Canada that opted out of the CPP. The Quebec Pension Plan, or QPP, (French: Régie des rentes du Québec; RRQ) is the province of Quebec's own version of the Canada Pension Plan. Almost mirroring the CPP exactly, the QPP is a contributory earnings-related pension plan that pays benefits in the event of the earner becoming disabled, retiring, or dying. Both Quebec and the federal government tax benefits paid from the QPP.

Increase in Contribution Rate

According to the 2011-12 Budget of the Government of Quebec, the government began increasing contribution rates by 0.15% each year for a six year period. Consequently, the contribution rate will increase from 9.9% to 10.8%. [31]

The contribution rate for 2016 is 10.65% and the rate will be 10.80% for 2017. [32]

See also


  1. "Canada's Retirement Income System". Archived from the original on 2009-06-09.
  2. "CPPIB Homepage". Retrieved 28 October 2016.
  3. Citation needed
  4. Service Canada. Canada Pension Plan Retirement Pension (booklet - March 2014), ISPB-147-03-14E.
  5. Service Canada. Canada Pension Plan Retirement Pension (booklet - March 2014), ISPB-147-03-14E
  6. See page 51 of 18th Actuarial Report on the CPP -
  7. See page 7 of "Optimal Funding of the Canada Pension Plan: Actuarial Study" Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions Canada.
  8. Page 48 (bottom footnote) of the 27th Actuarial Report on the Canada Pension Plan
  9. Page 113 of the 18th Actuarial Report on the Canada Pension Plan
  10. Page 73 of the 26th Actuarial Report on the Canada Pension Plan
  11. Page 48 (bottom footnote) of the 26th Actuarial Report on the Canada Pension Plan
  12. Page 48 (bottom footnote) of the 27th Actuarial Report on the Canada Pension Plan
  13. Page 48 of the 27th Actuarial Report on the Canada Pension Plan
  14. Page 48 of the 27th Actuarial Report on the Canada Pension Plan
  15. Page 6.61 of volume 1 of the 2015 Public Accounts of the Government of Canada -
  16. See page 13
  17. "27th Actuarial Report on the Canada Pension Plan" (PDF). Government of Canada. p. 31. Retrieved 20 October 2016.
  18. See page 13
  19. See page 35
  20. See page 23
  21. See page 26
  22. See Page 23
  23. "27th Actuarial Report on the Canada Pension Plan" (PDF). Government of Canada. p. 31. Retrieved 20 October 2016.
  24. "18th Actuarial Report on the Canada Pension Plan" (PDF). Government of Canada. p. 35. Retrieved 20 October 2016.
  25. "21st Actuarial Report on the Canada Pension Plan" (PDF). Government of Canada. p. 32. Retrieved 20 October 2016.
  26. See page 30
  27. See page 33
  28. See Page 30
  29. "27th Actuarial Report on the Canada Pension Plan" (PDF). Government of Canada. p. 31. Retrieved 20 October 2016.
  30. "Canada Pension Plan mulls Yahoo buy, report says - Business - CBC News". 2011-10-20. Retrieved 2014-06-04.
  31. See page 16 - "Meeting the Expectations of Quebers of Every Generation"
  32. Government of Quebec

External links

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