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April 6, 2021


Canadians Reluctant To Seek Care

Canadians living with chronic diseases ‒ like arthritis, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, or obesity ‒ are reluctant to seek proactive care during COVID-19. A national survey by Novo Nordisk Canada Inc. reveals while Canadians may think they’re reducing potential health risks, delaying care can increase negative health outcomes and impact demand on healthcare professionals and the medical system. Almost four in 10 (38 per cent) Canadians surveyed ‒ who have been clinically diagnosed with a chronic disease ‒ say they are avoiding the healthcare system altogether during the pandemic. Of those clinically diagnosed with a chronic condition, 13 per cent have neither visited their physician nor had a virtual/telephone visit since the start of the pandemic. It encourages Canadians to engage healthcare professionals safely and efficiently during COVID-19 as every province and territory offers telemedicine and virtual care offerings. For those who need in-person care, Canadians should feel comfortable accessing their healthcare providers who offer safe, sanitized, environments for treatment, it says.

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HOOPP Winds Down Strategy

The Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP) has wound down its long-term options strategy. Its 2020 annual report says the strategy, which offered equity index exposure with equity index options, recorded losses in 2020 and 2019. HOOPP’s broader portfolio posted strong performance in 2020, returning 11.42 percent for the year and beating its benchmark return of 9.8 percent. The pension fund surpassed C$100 billion (USD $79.5 billion) in assets under management for the first time in 2020. As the overall portfolio outperformed, the long-term options strategy lost C$31 million in 2020. In 2019, when the total fund gained 17.14 percent, the options strategy lost $C629 million. The strategy had, in some years, returned billions of dollars and is one of the major contributors to the return-seeking portfolio when it was first implemented in 2011.

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Institutional Investors Worry About Employees

Over a year into the pandemic, institutional investors are worried about the mental health of their employees, says a Nuveen global survey of institutional investors. It found managing stress and curbing burnout among employees who are working remotely were cited as top concerns. When the COVID-19 pandemic changed the nature of work and shifted the investing world to the home office, institutional investors took the change in stride as 79 per cent of respondents did not make significant asset allocation changes as a result of the pandemic and 67 per cent reported an increase in productivity while working from home. While the functions of the office space translated relatively seamlessly to a remote world, institutional investors reported concerns about employee mental health, including stress levels and the potential for burnout.

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Marketplace Lending Set For Explosive Growth

A combination of technological innovation, improved transparency, and investor demand for yield has put the $250 billion marketplace lending market on a trajectory for explosive growth, says Greenwich Associates. In ‘The Next Phase of Marketplace Lending: Transparency and Trading,’ it says in a period of historically low interest rates and high market volatility, personal loans are an attractive target for investors. They are relatively short in duration, have relatively high yields, and are uncorrelated to traditional stocks and bonds. However, until very recently, factors like the market’s small size, limited transparency, and lack of a liquid secondary market limited institutional investment. A new breed of fintech providers is using technology to address these issues and create a foundation that could open up fascinating new possibilities for borrowers and investors alike. “With fintech firms now at the heart of nearly 40 per cent of all personal loans, their impact on the asset segment is growing and increasingly drawing in institutional investors who, in the past, have seen the market as too small or lacking in transparency,” says Kevin McPartland, head of research in Greenwich Associates’ market structure and technology and author of the report.

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Chamber Members Get Mental Wellness App

The Chambers of Commerce Group Insurance Plan is partnering with Arete to bring more than 200,000 Canadians access to a mental wellness app that’s designed to help people feel connected. Hugr Authentic Connections offers users a personalized journey to help them measure feelings of connection, discover how to build and maintain authentic connections, and regularly share how they’re feeling with those closest to them. Loneliness and social isolation are serious health issues affecting many Canadians. As Canadians have become even more isolated, many are voicing concerns about how it is affecting their mental health. In 2020, almost half (47 per cent) reported their mental health as only fair, poor or very poor ‒a significant increase compared to the 30 per cent who rated themselves this way in 2019. “Ensuring our members have access to quality mental health supports as part of a holistic health benefits program has always been a primary driver for us,” says Dave Angus, president of Johnston Group, the administrator of Chambers Plan. “We knew our members were feeling isolated and we were hearing stories about the immense impact it was having on their lives at home and at work. We needed to find a tool that could help.” The app addresses the risks that growing social isolation and loneliness have on mental and physical health.

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CPP Investments Sells Stake

The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPP Investments) will sell its approximately 45 per cent interest in GlobalLogic Worldwide Holdings, Inc. to Hitachi, Ltd. Founded in 2000, with roots in Silicon Valley’s culture of technology disruption and innovation, GlobalLogic provides digital engineering services providers around the world. CPP Investments has held a joint lead ownership equity stake in GlobalLogic since 2017.

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Thompson Has New Role

Evan Thompson is senior manager, analytics and insights, at Pacific Blue Cross. He joined the firm in 2015 from Aon Hewitt Canada. Most recently, he was manager, strategy and analytics.

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CPBI ‘Forging Ahead’

‘Forging Ahead’ is the theme of the virtual CPBI Forum 2021 June 14 to 18. Sessions will look at current trends in pension employer services, employee health and wellness, and tackling cyber-risks. Information is at http://www.cpbi-icra.ca/Events/Details/National/2021/06-14-CPBI-FORUM-2021

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April 5, 2021


Expiring HCSA Credit Carryover Allowed

Individuals with health care spending accounts (HCSAs) might not be able to use their HCSA credits due to the closure of health service providers during the COVID-19 pandemic. To accommodate them, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) will allow a one-time carry-forward of unused credits for a “reasonable period” without compromising the preferred tax status, says an Eckler ‘GroupNews.’ This applies to unused credits that were due to expire between March 15 and December 31, 2020. With the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic resulting in significantly lower usage of HCSA credits by employees, unused credits expiring between March 15, 2020, and March 16, 2021, will be entitled to a one-time carry forward of up to 12 months. The CRA has determined that a period of up to 12 months would generally be considered reasonable and would not disqualify an HCSA from being considered a private health services plan. However, while the CRA has expressed the opinion that an extended carry-forward period due to COVID-19 will not disqualify an HCSA, insurance carriers/claims payers may be required to make changes in their programming in a very short amount of time to reflect the second extension for HCSA credits. Plan sponsors should ensure that their insurance carrier/claims payer is willing and able to make changes to accommodate further temporary extensions prior to communicating with plan members.

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Plan Funding Position Improves

Fueled by a sharp rise in bond yields, Canadian defined benefit pension plans’ funded positions continued to improve, ending the first quarter of 2021 at their highest levels in over 20 years. However, the ‘Mercer Pension Health Index (MPHI)’ says the current high funded positions may be fleeting, depending on the trajectory of interest rates, inflation expectations, and the performance of equity markets. The solvency ratio of a hypothetical defined benefit pension plan increased from 114 per cent at the end of 2020 to 124 per cent at the end of March 2021. Despite the negative returns experienced by many pension funds in the first quarter, the funded positions of DB plans improved significantly as long bond yields increased 77bps during the quarter. While the higher bond yields drove the negative investment returns in the quarter, this was more than offset by the decrease in liabilities resulting from higher discount rates,” says Ben Ukonga, a principal in Mercer’s financial strategy group. This put the index at its highest level since its inception in 1999. With the continued rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, re-opening of the global economy, stimulus spending by governments in attempts to re-ignite their respective economies, there is cause for optimism for continued improvements in DB plans’ funded positions for the rest of 2021 and beyond. But risks still exist, such as emergence of new variants of the COVID-19 virus, significant increases in government debt levels, inflation and interest rate worries, and geo-political tensions, he says.

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Pandemic Reveals Fossil Fuel Exposure

The economic shocks from COVID-19 have revealed the growing long-term risks of the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (Ontario Teachers’) exposure to fossil fuel investments and the growing financial benefits of shifting capital into climate solutions, says Shift Action for Pension Wealth & Planet Health. The global pandemic caused an unprecedented shock to oil demand over the past year. The impact of this sudden short-term drop was just a taste of how the expected terminal decline in global fossil fuel demand anticipated over the coming years will impact long-term investors like Ontario Teachers’. Despite otherwise strong results in navigating the challenges of the pandemic, it says Ontario Teachers’ underperformed in areas linked to fossil fuels, a factor contributing to missing its benchmark by two per cent with its natural resources portfolio, which includes nearly $3.3 billion in oil and gas, falling by 11.2 per cent in 2020, and its infrastructure portfolio, composed of nearly $2 billion in fossil gas pipeline infrastructure, returning just 2.6 per cent against a 7.5 per cent sector benchmark in 2020. Its portfolio of five airports faced particularly poor returns due to COVID-19, raising broader questions about the long-term prospects for aviation growth.

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Elev8 Joins Alliance

Elev8 Wealth Advisors Inc. has joined the Benefits Alliance Group. Elev8 is a full-service wealth advisory firm. Its core competencies include employee benefits, retirement and investment planning, insurance, and estate services.

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Opioid Management Offered

The Empire Life Insurance Company is adding the Express Scripts Canada opioid management solution to its pay-direct drug benefit plans. The goal is to reduce exposure to opioids and educate group benefits plan members about the risks associated with chronic use of these drugs, while helping address members’ needs. The solution is designed for those who have not taken opioids in the past six months. It limits the first fill of a prescription to no more than a seven-day supply to minimize exposure to opioids. The remaining portion of the prescription is kept on file in case it is needed. Short-acting opioids are dispensed before long-acting opioids and automated messages are sent by Express Scripts Canada to pharmacists to alert them about the first fill and to promote plan member education. The solution through Empire Life is not available in Quebec. The opioid crisis claimed the lives of more than 19,000 Canadians between January 2016 and September 2020 and 29 per cent of Canadians aged 18 years and older reported using some form of opioids in the past five years. Of these, more than one-quarter reported that they have leftover opioids stored in the home.

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CDPQ In Co-Investment Partnership

Energize Ventures, a global alternative investment manager, and Caisse de dépot et placement du Québec (CDPQ) have a co-investment partnership under which CDPQ will invest over the next three years in ventures that aim to accelerate the digital transformation of energy and sustainable industry sectors. The co-investment agreement expands its existing relationship with Energize Ventures: CDPQ is a limited partner in Energize Ventures I and an anchor limited partner in Energize Ventures II. As part of this agreement, they will share industry knowledge with respect to climate and sustainable investments, emphasizing digital innovations that advance the energy transition.

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Jeudy Leads Equitable

Fabien Jeudy is president and CEO  of the Equitable Life Insurance Company, effective July 5, taking over from Ronald Beettam who is retiring after 16 years with the company. Jeudy has more than 30 years of experience in the insurance industry, leading actuarial, finance, risk management, distribution, marketing teams, and operational teams in the life and health insurance, wealth management, and group benefits markets in Canada, the U.S., and Asia.

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Tailoring Benefits Examined

Developing a benefits plan tailored to business needs in Quebec will be examined at a ICRA Quebec session on April 12 and 13. Louis-Philippe Corbeil Girard, an insurance and group annuity advisor at Gestion Tim Cummings, will discuss designing and implementing a benefits plan tailored to a company’s needs based on its culture, budget, and desired impact on its employer brand. Information is at https://www.cpbi-icra.ca/fr/Activit per centC3 per centA9s/D per centC3 per centA9tails/Qu per centC3 per centA9bec/2021/04-12- per centC3 per cent89laborer-un-r per centC3 per centA9gime-d-avantages-sociaux

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April 1, 2021


Chronic Disease Going Untreated

The number of Canadians with untreated chronic diseases has significantly increased in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, says the 2021 edition of Express Scripts Canada’s annual ‘Prescription Drug Trend Report.’ This means potentially, more than 100,000 Canadians living with undiagnosed chronic diseases did not begin treatment in 2020. The report states that this alarming trend is reflected in 2020’s significant drop in new claimants for drugs used to treat chronic diseases like diabetes and cancer. “This trend is a cause for concern,” says Dr. Dorian Lo, president of Express Scripts Canada. “Delays in diagnosis and treatment increase the challenge for patients to manage their disease. For most conditions, seeking care in the earlier stages likely improves health outcomes and helps decrease the risk of disease progression and related consequences.” It shows treatment has been delayed in major therapeutic areas as the number of weekly new claimants in 2020 was lower than expected in several major therapeutic areas. Individuals who became sick or developed new symptoms last year may have delayed a visit to a health professional due to accessibility issues (closed or reduced services) or fear of exposure to the coronavirus. As well, from the end of March to December 2020, there was an average two per cent decline of weekly new claimants for cancer medications. This means there is an estimated backlog of more than 10,000 Canadians who potentially have not started treatment for cancer. During the same time, there was an average one per cent decline in weekly new claimants for diabetes medications. The estimated backlog of more than 20,000 Canadians who potentially have not started treatment for diabetes face a higher risk for therapy intensification.

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HOOPP Reaches Milestone

The Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP) generated an 11.42 per cent rate of return in 2020. In addition, it surpassed the $100 billion asset milestone, closing the year at $104 billion in net assets, up from $94.1 billion at the end of 2019. The plan’s funded status is 119 per cent, meaning that for every dollar it owes in pensions it has $1.19 in assets. Thanks to the strong results in 2020 and in previous years, its board of trustees has approved a benefit improvement for members. Effective April 1, members will receive an increase to their annual lifetime pension for any contributory service in the plan in 2018, 2019, and/or 2020. Its strength also allowed HOOPP to provide a cost of living adjustment (COLA) in 2020 for its retired and deferred members to help their pensions keep up with rising costs.

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Telus Integrates Virtual Care

As demand for virtual care surges during the global pandemic, TELUS Health has integrated its employer-focused virtual care service, Akira by TELUS Health, with its own electronic medical records (EMRs) and in Ontario with HRM (Health Report Manager), the provincial report delivery system. This integration means that more informed primary care can be provided as critical patient health information is delivered seamlessly into one medical chart so patients using this virtual care platform through their employee benefits programs will effectively receive better continuity of care. François Gratton, executive vice-president for TELUS and group president of TELUS Health, says, “Until now, the process for patients receiving support through an employer-paid virtual care program to ensure consultation notes were integrated into their family physician’s medical record was a very manual process using antiquated technologies every time. This important digital transformation helps reduce barriers to data sharing, supporting a more secure transfer of critical health information, and strengthening collaboration between clinicians across the public health system.” In Ontario, its virtual care service is also now connected to more than 12,000 clinicians throughout the province via the HRM which supports the safe exchange of data across health teams and Improved chronic disease management.

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Funded Ratio Improves

The aggregate funded ratio for Canadian pension plans in the S&P/TSX Composite Index increased from 89.4 per cent to 94.8 per cent during the past three months as of March 30, says the Aon ‘Pension Risk Tracker.’ It shows during the first quarter of 2021, pension assets lost value by 2.3 per cent over the first quarter due to negative returns on fixed income assets, partially offset by strong equity market performance. “Funded positions continued their upward trajectory in the first quarter and accelerating vaccination campaigns have bolstered confidence in an economic recovery. This growing confidence has increased yields over the quarter while stocks have also continued to perform well. Both factors have led to increasing funded ratios”, says Nathan LaPierre, partner, retirement solutions, at Aon. “The second quarter will be a test case for vaccinations and the ensuing economic recovery. The United States will have a large portion of the population vaccinated in the second quarter – and the question is how effectively will that halt the spread of the virus and fuel the economic recovery?”

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ESG Factored Into Bonuses

iA Financial Group has introduced an ESG (environment, social, and governance) component into the calculation of the annual bonuses for senior executives. That is one action identified in its ‘Sustainability Report’ for 2020. The report describes the various measures implemented by the company since the beginning of the COVID–19 pandemic to support its clients, employees, and the community. These include relief measures to help clients experiencing financial hardship as a direct result of the pandemic; support measures for employees, most of whom are teleworking; and donations in the areas of health and community services. It has also achieved the commitment it made in 2019 to offset its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through the purchase of carbon credits and is, therefore, carbon neutral. Carbon-neutral company certification attests that it has calculated and offset all its GHG emissions in 2020 that could not be eliminated by reduction measures in place. In 2021, an internal initiative focused on diversity and inclusion aims to achieve greater gender equity in senior leadership positions. It will also work to increase its employees’ awareness of the importance of diversity and inclusion.

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China’s Fixed Income Market Grows In Importance

European institutional investors and wealth managers are recognizing the growing importance of China’s fixed income market, with 63 per cent expecting foreign investment into the asset class to increase in the first quarter of 2021, compared to the last quarter of 2020, says research from NTree International Ltd. International investors currently own about three per cent of China’s onshore bonds. The research reveals that 17 per cent of institutional investors predict that this will increase to five per cent this year, with 35 per cent and 32 per cent expecting it to reach this mark in 2022 and 2023 respectively. Three quarters (76 per cent) of respondents agreed with the view that the expected increase in foreign investment in the Chinese fixed income market this year will be driven by monetary and fiscal policies in developed markets in relation to COVID-19, the continued growth in negative yields in Western fixed income markets, and the fact that major bond indices are increasingly adding Chinese debt to their compositions. The majority (80 per cent) also agreed that there will be an improvement in liquidity, ease of trading, and market access in the Chinese bond market over the next three years as it catches up with more developed markets.

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Ontario Teachers’ Support Restaurant Acquisition

Flynn Restaurant Group LP it has acquired 937 Pizza Hut and 194 Wendy’s locations throughout the U.S. from Kansas City-based NPC International. With a portfolio that already includes Applebee’s, Panera Bread, Taco Bell, and Arby’s, the newly-acquired Pizza Hut and Wendy’s restaurants will further Flynn’s goal of diversification between premier brands and segments within the restaurant industry. The transaction was supported by long-term partners Main Post Partners and Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board (Ontario Teachers’).

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McWhinnie Has New Position

Kyle McWhinnie is a principal at Actuarial Analytics. He joins the firm from Aon where he spent the past 10 years, most recently as a vice-president.

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Asset Allocation Examined

‘Asset Allocation Strategies in Today’s Market’ is the focus of an April 27 ACPM Ontario region session. Eric Menzer, global head of OCIO and fiduciary solutions at Manulife Investment Management; Sadiq Adatia, chief investment officer for Sun Life Global Investments; and Patrick De Roy, senior managing director, total portfolio and capital markets, at IMCO Investments; will share their insights on navigating the current market environment of heightened stimulus, above-average equity valuations, uncertain growth rates, and all-time low-interest rates. Information is at https://www.acpm.com/ACPM/Events/Regional-Events/Ontario-Council-Event.aspx

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March 31, 2021


Ontario Teachers' Portfolio Proves Resilient

The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board (Ontario Teachers’) had a total-fund net return of 8.6 per cent for the year. Net assets reached $221.2 billion as at December 31, 2020, a $13.8 billion increase from a year earlier. Ontario Teachers’ earned $18 billion in investment income in 2020. “Our portfolio proved to be very resilient during a turbulent year.  Through the headwinds of a global pandemic and volatile investment landscape, we delivered strong financial results and high service levels for our members,” says Jo Taylor, its president and chief executive officer. As of January 1, the plan was fully funded for an eighth consecutive year with a preliminary surplus of $8.5 billion using prudent assumptions, with 100 per cent inflation protection being provided on all pensions. The plan’s funding ratio was 103 per cent. As at December 31, 2020, it had an annualized total-fund net return of 9.6 per cent since inception. The five- and 10-year net returns were seven per cent and 9.3 per cent, respectively.

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Virus Impact On Mental Health To Last

Half of Canadians say the coronavirus pandemic has had an ongoing impact on their mental health and more than four-in-10 think the impact will last long after the pandemic is over, says a KPMG in Canada survey. “More than a year of worrying about getting sick, stay-home restrictions, and job and economic challenges have taken a toll on Canadians’ mental health,” says Denis Trottier, chief mental health officer at KPMG in Canada. “With vaccinations ramping up, Canadians should be seeing the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel, but many are anxious that people are getting complacent and no longer exercising needed diligence to remain safe until the bulk of the population has been inoculated.” The findings show 89 per cent worry Canadians are becoming impatient with the lockdowns and will let their guard down, 54 per cent say their mental health has suffered during the pandemic, 50 per cent say the pandemic has had an ongoing impact on their mental health, and 42 per cent believe the pandemic will have a lasting impact on their mental health. The research also finds that the pandemic has affected the mental wellbeing of women more than men and the 18 to 24 age demographic more than older Canadians.

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Digital Privacy Guidelines Concern Pension Plans

The British Columbia Financial Services Authority (BCFSA) draft information security guideline on mitigating risks related to information security posed by digital and online services is a growing concern with information security among Canadian pension regulators, says a Morneau Shepell ‘News & Views.’ The guideline sets out principles and best practices that provincially regulated financial institutions are expected to follow. However, pension plan administrators rely heavily on third party pension administrators and consultants and some of the guidelines are a concern. The BCFSA has identified information security risks as including unauthorized, illegal, or accidental use, disclosure or destruction of data or impairment of network systems, which can cause serious harm to consumers and significant reputation damage to regulated financial institutions (PRFIs). It states that PRFI boards of directors or their equivalent are ultimately responsible for overseeing the prudent management of information security risks. The board should, among other things, identify the governing body accountable for overseeing information security, approve the information security strategy of the organization, possess current and relevant knowledge in information security or recognize when expertise or third party advice is needed, and assess the competencies, skills and experience of senior management pertaining to information security. Senior management is responsible for the development, documentation, implementation, and monitoring of information security strategies, policies, and procedures.

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Group Annuities Have Strong Year

Last year turned out to be a strong year for the Canadian group annuity market with volumes reaching $4.4 billion – its third highest finish ever, says Brent Simmons, head of Sun Life’s Defined Benefit Solutions. Despite challenges in their core businesses, many plan sponsors made pension de-risking a priority. In fact, 2020 saw the largest single-day, single-insurer group annuity transaction in history at $1.1 billion. With the funded status of most plans at, or even slightly above, where they were a year ago, Canadian DB pension plans have some much-needed breathing room. This makes it a great time for plan sponsors to re-evaluate their pension risk and get back in the driver’s seat for 2021, he says.

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Northwestern Ontario Gets Dental Access

Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU) and Green Shield Canada (GSC) are partnering on a dental public health program that will offer access to dental care through dental clinics and mobile dental buses throughout the region, all at no cost to eligible patients. Green Shield Canada’s Green Door Project will provide an annual gift of $120,000 for three consecutive years to allow NWHU to offer cost-free care for hundreds of eligible low-income adults in the region who are currently unable to access regular dental care. David Willows, executive vice-president, innovation at Green Shield Canada, says, “Canadians in lower income brackets are four times more likely to avoid seeing a dentist due to cost and twice as likely to have worse oral health outcomes.

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Bitcoin Price Drop Triggers Interest

A Bitcoin price drop will trigger a surge in institutional investment, driving up the price permanently, says Nigel Green, chief executive and founder of deVere Group. The world’s largest cryptocurrency is up nearly 500 per cent since the rally started in October. However, it has pulled back after hitting all-time price highs earlier this month of more than $61,000. He says this has all spiked the hype in the media and massive interest amongst retail investors, who are keener than ever to invest in digital currencies, dubbed ‘the future of money’. However, this momentum currently appears to be slowing down. Together with greater ongoing regulatory scrutiny, this can be expected to “prompt the herd-like mentality of many inexperienced investors who will now cash-out their bitcoin, forcing the price temporarily lower. This is when institutional investors, many of whom are just beginning to dip their toe in the crypto water, will likely dive in. “With them, they will bring their enormous capital, clout, and expertise to the market and this will then prove to be another considerable confidence shot for even more retail investors,” he says.”

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Sinclair Has New Role

Madeleine Sinclair is the head of BlackRock Asset Management Inc.’s iShares Canada. She brings more than 20 years of industry experience to the role, with 19 of those years at BlackRock. Most recently, she was a national sales manager at iShares U.S. Wealth Advisory, which focuses on the accelerated adoption and implementation of iShares ETFs with advisors.

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Sustainable Funds Examined

Amy Atack, client service director and partner at Baillie Gifford, and Nessim Mansoor, head of Canadian large cap equities at Fiera Capital, are the featured speakers at the Benefits and Pensions Monitor Meetings & Events ‘Group Retirement Plan and Sustainable Funds: Now More Than Ever’ session. Sponsored by iA Financial Group, they will provide a better understanding of how environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors are integrated with fundamental financial analysis in order to select the best performing companies in terms of sustainable development. It takes place April 28. Information is at Registration (gotowebinar.com)

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March 30, 2021


Meaningful Steps Needed On High-Cost Drug Strategy

It is important to take meaningful steps to develop a national strategy for high-cost drugs for rare diseases for the benefit of all Canadians, says the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association (CLHIA). In its submission to the federal government’s consultation on a national strategy, it says the Federal Budget 2019 announced up to $1 billion over two years, starting in 2022-23, with up to $500 million per year ongoing, to help Canadians with rare diseases access the drugs they need. The CLHIA believes that it is important that the committed funding is spent efficiently. The amount spent on drugs for rare diseases has grown exponentially. The private payers’ market itself paid more than $650 million on rare disease drugs in 2020 which far exceeds the earmarked annual funding of $500 million in the ‘2022-23 Patented Medicine Review Board Annual Report 2019.’ The challenge, it says, is to find a rare disease strategy that balances the needs of Canadians faced with chronic, debilitating, or even life-threatening rare diseases against the increasing and unpredictable costs to ensure the system remains sustainable, while encouraging innovation and the availability of treatments in Canada. Under a cost sharing/re-insurance approach, it says the federal government would share the cost of all drugs on the rare disease formulary beyond a certain threshold. This approach could achieve savings and improve predictability of costs for both provincial and employer plans. It is important that private payers are included in this approach to minimize impacts to patients and plan sponsors and ensure the sustainability of the overall system.

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Saskatchewan Looks At DB Funding

The Saskatchewan Financial and Consumer Affairs Authority (FCAA) has released a consultation paper on the pension funding framework for single employer defined benefit (DB) plans, says an Aon ‘Radar.’ The purpose of the consultation is to seek feedback from stakeholders on whether to revise the solvency funding framework for SEPPPs, and if it is revised, how to structure the framework to better support the long-term sustainability and benefit security offered by those plans. It looks at changing the way in which solvency deficiencies are funded or eliminating solvency funding or requiring partial solvency funding and enhancing going concern funding. In addition to reviewing the degree to which solvency deficits must be amortized for SEPPPs, the FCAA is reviewing other methods of providing funding relief to these plans such as solvency reserve accounts and letters of credit. As well, given the heightened risk in Saskatchewan of benefit reductions upon plan termination, the consultation also seeks feedback on a funding framework where solvency funding relief would be by election. If a plan administrator elects to fund under the new framework, they would then have to fully fund all accrued benefits if the plan is terminated. The full funding condition could be a requirement only if the new funding regime involves an elimination of solvency funding or a rule that a plan has to be funded only to a certain level. If the new funding regime consists only of more conservative relief such as re-amortization of solvency deficiencies, then the FCAA currently believes that such a change may not be enough to warrant a full funding requirement upon plan termination. Currently, only single employer private sector pension plans (SEPPP) must make contributions towards solvency deficiencies.

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ACPM Wants To Discuss Digital ID

The Association of Canadian Pension Management (ACPM) Ontario regional council wants to meet with the province to discuss the possible implications of Ontario’s digital ID program for pension plans. Pension plan administrators routinely use government-issued identification, including driver’s licenses and birth, marriage, and/or death certificates to verify the identity, age, and status of plan members and other beneficiaries. The digital ID program, therefore, has the potential to affect administrators, employers, and plan members. Understanding details related to the initiative while they are still in development will permit the ACPM and its membership to determine the impact of the program on pension plans and their stakeholders and to provide feedback in this regard. It says working collaboratively with the sector will ensure the project is developed and implemented in a way that encompasses the needs of pension plans and their members.

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Healthcare Organizations At Supply Chain Crossroads

Pre-eminent healthcare organizations at the forefront of disruption are facing critical crossroads where supply chain execution is becoming the nucleus for resilience and agility, says Techsys. However, the builder of supply chain solutions that equip organizations for the evolving demands of business says in healthcare, the critical need to shield against supply chain disruption and increase resiliency has been widely acknowledged. In the U.S., healthcare supply chain leaders are defining new industry best practices to stay adaptable in the face of increased volatility. This shift has created a healthcare supply chain landscape ripe for the kind of transformation by which Tecsys has earned its reputation. Peter Brereton, Tecsys’ president and CEO, says, “Building resilience while maintaining agility is becoming mission-critical even as those pursuing it are having a hard time squaring the circle. Fundamentally, these are contrasting forces, and without reimagining how your supply chain captures, processes, and shares data, you’re pursuing a different outcome with an outdated definition of healthcare supply chain management.”

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Institutional Investors Mistrust Reddit

More institutional investors are using Reddit to learn about investments and make investment decisions, even as they report increasingly high mistrust of the internet forum, says a survey by the Brunswick Group. It shows 27 per cent of the respondents used Reddit to investigate investment-related issues, up five percentage points from just three months earlier. About 20 per cent made a trade, changed a recommendation, or altered a position because of activity originating in there. Use of it was up by six percentage points compared to November. At the same time, the survey recorded a sharp decline in how much investors trusted Reddit as a source of information, with 54 per cent giving it a score of one or zero out of 10. On average, investors scored Reddit as a two out of 10 on the trustworthiness scale, down from 3.3 in November.

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HNRG Acquires Eucalyptus Plantations

Manulife Investment Management’s Hancock Natural Resource Group (HNRG), through its affiliate Sempre Verde Florestas e Agricultura Ltda., has acquired 12,874 hectares of eucalyptus plantations in Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil, from AMATA, through its subsidiary APE1 Plantio de Floresta Exotica S.A. The acquisition is in keeping with its priority to strategically invest in its private markets’ assets across timber, agriculture, infrastructure, real estate, private equity, and credit. The plantations were established beginning in 2012 to supply the growing demand from the bleached eucalyptus kraft pulp mills which are proximal to the timberlands. Since that time, AMATA has provided state-of-the-art technology to growing and maintaining the forests which has resulted in top quartile plantations for the region.

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Deacon Joins Ontario Teachers’

Tim Deacon is chief financial officer at the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board (Ontario Teachers’). He joins the plan from Manulife Financial where he was group controller and global chief accounting officer. In this role, he held global accountability for financial reporting, accounting policy, accounting shared services, and global finance transformation.

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Light Shines On Mental Health

CPBI Northern Alberta will be ‘Shining A Light on Mental Health.’ With the mental health of Canadians significantly lower than prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Paula Allen, global leader and senior vice-president, research and total wellbeing at Morneau Shepell, will talk to the impact lockdowns have had on employer programs and how those programs have been able to support clients during this pandemic. It takes place April 7. Information is at https://www.cpbi-icra.ca/Events/Details/Northern-Alberta/2021/04-07-Shining-A-Light-on-Mental-Health

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