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The CPP is a contributory system. Contributions are a percentage of income up to a maximum. The Plan receives funds from those contributions and investment increases on those contributions. It is self-contained and has no outside (taxation) funding. There are a number of insured eventualities under the plan. The most well known is the pension benefit, available to all contributors at age 65, or at an actuarially reduced rate between the ages of 60 and 65 provided the contributor has wholly or substantially stopped working at the time of application. Other benefits are the death benefit, survivors benefit, orphans benefit and disability benefit. The disability benefit is triggered by a finding of severe and prolonged disability which prevents all participation in the work force for the foreseeable future. The disability benefit consists of flat rate payments to all recipients increased by a variable amount that is a percentage of average contribution income during the time period prior to disability in which the contributor did work and contribute.

The pension benefit at age 65 is calculated to provide an monthly amount that is equal to 25% of the contributors average earnings during their work-life relative to the national average.

This means that if during each year of your working life you earned at or above the national average at the time (the time you were working), then on retirement you will receive 25% of the national average income at the time (the time you retire). If, during your working life, you were a low-income earner (and therefore a lower contributor), say, earning about 75% of the national average wage in any given year, then in retirement your benefit will be 25% of 75% of the national average in that year (the year you retire). And so on.

So the benefit is calculated with regard to PERCENTAGES and RELATIVE VALUES, but funded by gross contributions balanced actuarially with gross benefit payments. The idea is that a person who contributes 7% of their earnings per month over an average length career will have accumulated enough money 'in the bank' by age 65 to afford to get back 25% of those earnings per month over the average length of a retirement. Of course the formula is a little off, because you're also insuring for hte other benefits, and there's also increase on contributions through investment, but generally that's the idea.

But the 'average length of contribution' is all off for disability recipients. Their AVERAGE earnings may well be the same as an able-bodied persons, because someone that earns $5000 a year for five years obviously has the same AVERAGE income as someone who earns $5000 for 10 years, but their GROSS contributions will be much less.

Plus, you may having the same projected length of retirement (i.e. period between turning 65 and death) Although probably a lesser projected length of benefit people cos statistically life expectancy for severe and prolonged disability sufferers is less, and many don't even make it to retirment age. But assuming (and its a big assumption) an equal period of pension benefit entitlement, plus a period of receipt of disability benefit, this means your equal or greater gross consumption of the Plan benefits is out of proportion with your gross contribution to the plan (because of the curtailed contribuition period) even though as an AVERAGE or RATIO you are the same as anyone else.

So adjusting the calculation of a disability reciepient's retirement pension to result in, on average say 20% of their average earnings during their work-life, instead of the 25% that is the norm in every other case, is one of the methods the government has chosen to maintain the Plan in balance, in terms of income/outcome.

And, possibly, because disability recipients a) do, in the majority (although not all cases) have lesser gross contributions than able--bodied persons, and b) do, in the majority (although really not in all cases) receive a greater gross benefit from the Plan, then these may be RELEVANT differences in circumstance in relation to the purpose of the Plan, from able-bodied persons, which may justify differential treatment in the calculation of pension entitlements.

And if a distinction in law is not based on DISABILITY per se, but on factual differences that are relevant to the purposes of the legislation, then the distinction in law is not necessarily 'discriminatory' in the sense defined and prohibited by the Charter guarantee of equality before the law.

I guess I could live with it if I lost for that reason.
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December 2015

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