A pension scheme is taking shape in Western Canada that may become a new option for people who don’t have a company pension or for businesses that are fed up with running their own plans.

British Columbia has already endorsed the creation of a new pension fund, which Alberta is expected to join. Ontario and Nova Scotia are also studying similar proposals.

This concept pre-dates the current economic crisis that has badly bruised many pension funds.

But the timing may end up being just right for Canadians whose pension savings have taken a pounding.

Experts are already cautioning that pension shortfalls and major losses to individual retirement savings plan accounts threaten to put off retirement for many people.

“With occupational pension plans, frankly they’re a mess,” says Keith Ambachtsheer, who leads a pension think-tank at the University of Toronto.

He estimates that five million Canadians are without a private pension fund to supplement whatever they get from the Canada Pension Plan when they retire.

The new pension fund will not be designed to compete with or replace the Canada Pension Plan. It’s also not for everyone. Workers who are already paying into a company pension would likely not have any leeway under existing federal tax laws to join another plan.