True cost of running CPP triples: Fraser Institute

Investment board excludes key spending factors

The cost of running the Canada Pension Plan has more than tripled, according to a report released by the Fraser Institute.

The study — released on Sept. 2 by the public policy think tank and authored by former chief economic analyst at Statistics Canada, Philip Cross — pointed to skyrocketing investment board spending as the culprit. That includes transaction and external management fees and spending by the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board — the Crown corporation that manages and invests CPP assets and costs incurred by the federal government while running the program.

“Contrary to claims of proponents of an expanded CPP, or a provincial pension plan in Ontario, many of the costs of large, government-managed pension plans like the CPP are hidden,” Cross explained. “The CPP Investment Board now spends almost twice as much on management fees and transaction costs as it does on actual operations.”

In Accounting for the True Cost of the Canada Pension Plan, the institute noted that between 2006 and 2013 the total cost of running the national pension plan jumped from $600 million to $2 billion, despite the investment board’s claim that operating expenses in the 2012-2013 fiscal year was $490 million.

That discrepancy can be attributed to omissions from the operating budget, particularly the management fees it pays to external consultants, transaction fees associated with acquiring assets and costs incurred by four federal government departments.

For the 2012-2013 year, the investment board spent $490 million on operations, $782 million on external management fees and $177 million on transaction fees, which amounts to $1.4 billion. Additionally, Ottawa’s administrative costs totalled $586 million for collective contributions and paying benefits, bringing the grand total to just under $2 billion.

When all factors are considered, the CPP Investment Board costs four times more than the reported operating budget, Cross said, calling for improved transparency.

“Every dollar spent on running the CPP is one less dollar available for Canadians who contribute a portion of their paycheques to the plan, so it’s vital that the CPP is as efficient and transparent as possible,” he said.

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