The floor is yours

This article originally appeared in the CIA (e)Bulletin

By Marc Tardif, FCIA
CIA President

In early 2020, the consultation process for the level-2 public statement on national pharmacare began. Over 20 members responded to our call and submitted their comments. The single topic task force is currently reviewing those comments to prepare a draft public statement by June 2020. You will be invited to provide input on this draft over the summer. The task force will take your input into consideration and submit a final version to the Board for approval in September 2020.

Why should we hear from actuaries on this issue? Because it is an important issue for Canadians, and one that has been raised many times over the years. Between the Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare’s June 2019 report on a national pharmacare plan and the October 2019 federal election, we believe that steps will follow soon. This is an opportunity for us to analyze the issue from an actuarial point of view and provide sound advice.

A little history

The participation of actuaries in public debate is not new. In the late 1980s, although the CIA did not recommend a preferred option to policy-makers, it came up with options and presented the advantages and disadvantages to governments. In the 2000s, we felt it was important to increase the CIA’s external communications and its exposure. Over time, the demand for opinions, advice, and recommendations from the CIA has grown, and the number of submissions to policy-makers has increased. Five years ago, we hired a research and strategy firm. One of their recommendations suggested that an increased intervention in public policy would strengthen the actuarial profession’s commitment to public interest. Several members had also shared that they wanted to play a bigger role in the development of public statements, particularly by being consulted before they were released. This led us to propose bylaw amendments, which were approved by the members. In 2019, our first level-2 public statements were issued on retirement age and climate risks.

Your public statements

It goes without saying that complex issues such as these require extensive discussion and that the task forces responsible for drafting the statements dedicate many hours to assessing members’ input and the best possible options. During the consultation process, members are asked for their input on two occasions: once at the start of the process when a notice of intent is issued and again when a draft public statement is circulated. An open debate, often in the form of a webcast, is also held during the comment period for the draft public statement. Rest assured: they truly are your public statements.

Using our expertise to help Canadians

Our society is facing increasingly complex problems. Our profession has expertise in mitigating risks and protecting public interest. Our public statement process gives us a framework that allows us to take a stand on issues where our expertise can make a difference. You are our reference: your collective input enables us to come up with sound recommendations.

But there are also other ways to contribute. The CIA needs you to share our public statements with your networks. The more our members share our statements, the broader our reach will be. By sharing the opinions of your profession, you are helping promote actuarial expertise.

Impact of our work

The members of the Public Affairs Council recently made a list of the lessons that they have learned since the implementation of public statements. We have made great headway. For example, several of our comments on ISAP 4 and those made to the International Actuarial Association were retained. Our level-2 public statement on retirement age got a lot of attention, with our media exposure reaching nearly 13 million potential readers. It was included in a column and editorial in The Globe and Mail, an article and editorial in La Presse, and an article in Le Soleil. As for the statement on climate risks, we got great reactions from government and industry stakeholders, who contacted us to discuss the issue further. It was an opportunity to add our voice to that of several actuarial and financial organizations. And, recent comments on environmental, social, and governance factors made by cutting-edge leaders such as Mark Carney, UN Special Envoy on Climate Action, and Larry Fink, CEO of Blackrock, are reminiscent of our own position.

Our next challenge: risk classification

In addition to the public statement on national pharmacare, we are working on another statement on risk classification. As you know, the property and casualty and life insurance industries have access to more and more information that can be used as indicators for different risk levels. Our statement will focus on establishing what is appropriate for insurers to include in risk classification in a justified manner.

By the time this article is released, you will have received the notice of intent for this public statement. You will have a few weeks to submit your comments on the document. Our biggest obstacle is getting feedback from the silent majority. Several members who agree with the orientations of our level-2 public statements do not share their comments. But their feedback is crucial and broadens the reach of our profession. Over the next few weeks and months, I challenge you to share your opinion on national pharmacare and risk classification. You will then have the satisfaction of seeing the impact of your profession’s collective efforts on our society.

Marc Tardif, FICA, is President of the Canadian Institute of Actuaries

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