Retirement » Government Benefits

Who is affected by the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan?

With the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan taking shape, the provincial government is giving Ontarians the chance to weigh in on the proposed provincial pension plan. The Ontario Liberals released a consultation paper on “key design questions” of the ORPP, such as low-income earners and the self-employed. The discussion paper provides more details on the ORPP, including who’s covered.

Who’s covered by the ORPP?

When the ORPP is in full swing, the provincial government anticipates three million people to make $3.5 billion each year in contributions. The ORPP looks to be mandatory for everyone except those with defined benefit pension plans and newer target benefit plans. Unlike defined contribution pension and group RRSPs, defined benefit pension plans provide you with a retirement benefit for your lifetime based on your earnings and your years of service. Target benefit plans are a middle ground between defined benefit and defined contribution – they act much like a defined benefit, but your benefit could be reduced based on how the plan’s investments perform.

Employers that offer alternative retirement savings plans, such as defined contribution pension plans, group RRSPs and pooled PRPPs, would be forced to join the ORPP. This would be quite a financial burden for employers, who would have little incentive to continue to offer these plans if they must also pay into the ORPP. The government looks to be open to discussion, mentioning employers may be able to adapt their pension plans to be exempt from the ORPP.

Self-employed individuals

When the ORPP was first proposed, many self-employed individuals were concerned about the financial burden it would put on their business. According to the Ontario Ministry of Finance, 700,000 people in Ontario reported self-employment income in 2011. Currently, self-employed individuals don’t have the option of opting out of the CPP. If you’re self-employed, you must contribute both the employer and employee portion of the CPP.

If you’re self-employed in Ontario you can breathe a sigh of relief. It doesn’t look like you’ll be forced into joining the ORPP. Self-employed individuals are ineligible to join because of the Federal Income Tax Act. However, the provincial government is looking into a voluntary opt-in. This seems like a win-win situation for the self-employed. The ORPP would provide self-employed individuals with some stability in income in their retirement, provided they choose to join.

Unlike the self-employed, small business owners would be forced to join. When you’re starting up a business, cash flow is key. Forcing small business owners to join the ORPP could result in tough decisions. While many large employers are in the position to absorb the added cost of the ORPP, small businesses struggling to stay afloat may have to freeze wages or lay off employees to balance the books.

Low-income earners

The ORPP looks to be similar to the CPP in many respects, including how low-income earners are treated. Similar to the CPP, if you earn below $3,500, you will not be required to contribute to the ORPP.

Similar to the CPP, the ORPP will count as taxable income toward means-tested government benefits like the Guaranteed Income Supplement. Instead of helping low-income earners, the ORPP could result in claw-backs to the GIS. Not only will low-income earners lose a portion of their GIS, but they’ll also be forced to start contributing to the ORPP. With many of these folks struggling to pay for the necessities of life like rent and food, contributions to the ORPP will take money out of the pockets of those most in need.

There’s still plenty of time to weigh in on the newly-proposed ORPP. You have until mid-February to provide your two cents on the new pension plan.


  1. Scott Kwasneca

    How are Ontario residents affected if they live in Ontario but work for an Alberta company?

    • Sean Cooper, Financial Journalist

      Hi Scott. Although the ORPP is still being finalized, I would imagine your employer and you would have to pay into the ORPP. The whole point is to ensure Ontario residents have a pension in retirement.

  2. tony zammit


    What will be an eligible employee. In this day and age where employers use temporary workers, casual or the lovely independent contractors through temp agencies etc… will these employees be covered?

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