Plans for an Ontario Pension Plan will be unveiled by the minority Liberal government this spring, ahead of a widely expected provincial election, Premier Kathleen Wynne announced Tuesday.
"We believe that we need to set up a structure so that people can save their own money, and they can make investments along with their employers in their future," said Wynne.
The minority Liberal government is worried people are not saving enough for retirement, and is prepared to take action on its own since the federal Conservatives refuse to enhance the Canada Pension Plan, she added.
"This is not something the government dreamed up as an issue," said Wynne. "This is something that comes from people. It really is about people having the opportunity to save for their retirement, and giving them a context within which to do that."
The federal Conservatives say increasing pension contributions amounts to a job-killing payroll tax, an argument Wynne flatly rejected.
"This is not a tax," she said. "This is an investment in the future that individuals and businesses would be making, and it is a responsible way forward."
Bill Morneau, a human resources consultant and a pension adviser to Wynne, said workers need to view contributions as an investment in their future.
"The idea is it's not a tax, it's exactly the opposite," said Morneau.
"It's helping people to do something that they know they need to do, and that's to save more for their retirement."
Ottawa wants the provinces to support Registered Pooled Pension Plans as an alternative to enhancing the CPP, but Ontario rejected that option because they are voluntary, not mandatory.
Many Canadians do not contribute the full amount to their Retirement Savings Plans each year because they are not forced to do so, said Morneau.
"Currently there's a huge amount of leftover room in RSPs, so by having some sort of mandatory savings approach it is going to help people ensure they have enough for the future," he said.
"After you have that mandatory approach, is there a way that people who already have saved enough can opt out, and that's a question we need to address."
Wynne appointed a special panel, headed by former prime minister Paul Martin, to advise the province on how to create a pension plan and whether it would allow people to opt out.
"There needs to be a mandatory aspect to this in order to have the number of people involved that makes it a viable plan, but some of the plans that exist in other jurisdictions have an opt out clause," she said.
"What we know is that where plans like this have been set up and there is an opt out clause, a very small percentage of people actually do opt out."
Ontario's New Democrats said not one Liberal voted for an Ontario Retirement Plan when the NDP proposed it in 2010, and accused the government of being good at naming panels, which they called a stalling tactic.
"Unfortunately, for 10 years the Liberals have talked a lot about pension reform, but Ontarians haven't seen any results," said NDP house leader Gilles Bisson.