Due to significant decreases in the value of pension funds’ investments, it is likely that the government will step in, says Andrew Harrison, a partner with the Toronto office of Borden Ladner Gervais LLP who specializes in pension and benefits law, financial institutions law and structured finance.

As a number of federally regulated companies, including BCE Inc., have been corresponding with the federal government for a break in pension obligations, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty suggested earlier in the week that temporary relief could be on the horizon.

'What was previously a pool of assets that was pretty well sufficient to cover the pensions that was promised has suddenly become a fraction of that,' says Harrison.

'From a political perspective, companies are being forced to pay more money into their pension funds at the very time that they need the money for their ongoing business, given the shakiness in the economy.'