Alberta introduces law to give employees and employers control of their pensions

Historic law will take the politics out of pensions, finance minister says

United Nurses of Alberta member Karen Kuprys spoke at the press conference announcing Bill 27: Joint Governance of Public Sector Pension Plans Act.

In a historic development preceded by decades of work by United Nurses of Alberta and other unions, the Government of Alberta has introduced legislation that will give control of Alberta’s public sector pensions to employees and their employers.

“This takes the politics out of pensions,” Finance Minister Joe Ceci told a news conference immediately after the Joint Governance of Public Sector Pension Plans Act was introduced in the Legislature Tuesday afternoon.

The act proposes a joint governance structure like that in other provinces for three of Alberta’s largest pension plans – the Local Authorities Pension Plan (LAPP), in which the majority of UNA members are enrolled, the Public Service Pension Plan (PSPP), and the Special Forces Pension Plan (SFPP).

The action by the NDP Government to put the pensions under joint governance fulfills a promise made nearly 30 years ago by a previous government and brings Alberta into line with a best-practices approach to pension governance that is in the mainstream of Canadian pension governance.

By removing the government as the “sole trustee” of the plans, the change eliminates the temptation by governments to meddle with the money working Albertans in enrolled in the plans have saved for their retirements.

Speaking to the news conference, UNA member Karen Kuprys, a Registered Nurse at the Youville Home in St. Albert and a member of Local 154, told the news conference that “it’s great the promise of joint trusteeship of our pension plan made by the government almost 30 years ago has finally been honoured.”

“As a nurse and a front-line health care worker, at times I have been concerned about my retirement security … with attacks on our pension,” said Kuprys, who has been an RN in Alberta for 25 years and is enrolled in the LAPP.

“Four years ago, I was one of the thousands of Albertans who stood up for retirement security,” she said. “We wrote letters to the finance minister, called our MLAs, and rallied in minus-30-degree weather against changes the former government tried to impose that would have put our retirement security at risk.”

“This change now removes politics from the decision-making process,” Kuprys said. “The integrity of our pension plans is now something that we won’t have to worry about.”

“I want to be able to always focus on the wellbeing of my patients,” she said.

Under joint governance, a Sponsor Board made up of nominees from employee and employer sponsor organizations will govern each plan and be responsible for plan design.

The legislation will also establish new LAPP, PSPP and SFPP corporations responsible for the overall operation of the plans, with a fiduciary responsibility to act in the interests of plan members.

The government anticipates transition to the new model of joint governance to take place on March 1, 2019.

Read the background information on the Joint Governance of Public Sector Pension Plans Act from the Government of Alberta.