Just a year ago, Mitzie Hunter was campaigning in a by-election hoping to convince Scarborough-Guildwood residents that she’s worthy of representing them at Queen’s Park.
Passing the first test with flying colours, the constituents unanimously endorsed her in last month’s provincial elections that provided the Liberals with a majority mandate.
Riding voters were not the only ones impressed with Hunter.
Ontario’s Premier, Kathleen Wynne, has appointed the Jamaican-born politician associate minister of finance with responsibility for the new Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP) aimed at individuals earning up to $90,000 annually who do not have a workplace pension plan.
The plan is expected to be mandatory except for those whose employers already provide registered pension plans.
Triggering the recent election after being introduced in the May 1 budget, the plan will be re-introduced this month.
“This is a huge opportunity for the province to move forward with an issue that we know is of growing concern,” Hunter told Share in an interview. “With two thirds of Ontarians not having a workplace-base pension plan, the made-in-Ontario plan will allow about three million people to access a pension through this process. That would be in addition to the Canadian Pension Plan (CPP).”
A technical advisory panel has been created to ensure the framework is in place to roll out the plan in 2017.
“We will be consulting and engaging across the province with businesses, individuals and communities,” said Hunter, who spent two years as Toronto Community Housing’s first chief administrative officer, leading the organization’s strategic and business support functions, including corporate communications, strategic planning, human resources and information technology prior to joining CivicAction in January 2012.
She was the parliamentary assistant to Minister of Community & Social Services Ted McMeekin, a member of the finance & economic and government committees and a special committee on developmental services before the election was called.
Hunter, who tabled a private member’s bill that would allow Toronto to implement a ranked-ballot system for electing members of council, said the ORPP was a hot-button topic with voters during the election campaign.
“It was part of the Liberal plan to ensure that we invest in people, whether that’s through full-day kindergarten and ensuring that people have the skills and talents to help drive our economy or caring for seniors and ensuring they have the care they need. Making sure that Ontarians have a secure retirement future is really demonstrated in the leadership that we are taking in the province.
“I am just honoured to be given this responsibility. It builds on the experience that I have working with communities and engaging on large issues that affect people. It also allows me to bring stakeholders and communities together to tackle what is a very meaningful priority for us in Ontario and for our government. It’s a big job and I am thrilled to be asked to do it.”
The ORPP was a centrepiece of the Liberals’ election campaign.
“The idea of people having the opportunity to be able to look forward to some security in their retirement is not a left or right idea,” Wynne said at a press conference last week. “It’s an idea that makes sense to people and government must play a role because we know people can’t do this themselves. The core reason for this is that fewer than 35 per cent of Ontario’s working population belongs to a workplace pension. That is just not adequate.
“In 2012, there was $280 billion worth of unused Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) contribution space in Ontario. The fact is that we know that people are not saving enough. CPP benefits are not sufficient and so we know the maximum benefit of $12,500 that can be paid out by CPP and that the average benefit in Ontario of only $1,600 is inadequate for people. That’s why we need to get moving on this ORPP.”