Dec 31, 2013 Projection of Financial Positions, LAPP, PSPP_updated 2014Feb27

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Redford government fudging pension numbers

New analysis reveals truth about Alberta’s shrinking pension liability

EDMONTON – The unfunded liability of Alberta’s public-sector pension plans is already a billion dollars smaller than Finance Minister Doug Horner claims.

For the past six months, the Redford government has defended its plan to cut benefits for public-sector workers by pointing to the $7.4 billion unfunded liability attached to Alberta’s four provincial pension plans.

Finance Minister Doug Horner has repeated the figure at every opportunity. He has said that if nothing is done, the liability will only grow – and that, even if his cuts are implemented – it will take 30 years for the unfunded liability to disappear.

But what if Horner got his numbers wrong? What if the unfunded liability is not as big as the minister says it is and that it’s shrinking, rather than growing?

As it turns out, that’s exactly what’s happening.

Today, the unions involved in the Labour Coalition on Pensions, representing most of the 300,000 people covered by Alberta’s public sector plan, released a new report showing what the unfunded liability looks like today, as opposed to the two-year-old figures used by the Finance Minister.

The report, prepared by the independent actuarial firm George & Bell, shows that after factoring in the last two years of investment returns, the unfunded liability has dropped by about a billion dollars.

This supports the actuary’s earlier conclusion that the plans are on their way to eliminating their unfunded liabilities in seven years – even without any cuts to the benefit that workers paid for themselves.

Here’s what some of the presidents involved in the Labour Coalition on Pensions had to say about the new report from George & Bell:

What the report shows is that the Redford government’s plan for pension cuts is built on a foundation of misinformation. They’re using phony numbers to justify a plan that is really unjustifiable.”
Gil McGowan, Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL)

 “Yesterday, they played games with budget numbers. Today, it’s clear they’ve been playing games with pension numbers. How can Albertans trust anything this government says?”
Heather Smith, United Nurses of Alberta (UNA)

 “It’s important for people to understand that the $7.4 billion unfunded liability was a reflection of the health our pension plans in the immediate aftermath of the global recession. The new actuarial report shows that the situation is rapidly improving with the strategies the LAPP board of trustees has put in place.”
Elisabeth Ballermann, Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA)

 “The minister has to stop using the $7.4 billion figure. It’s a misleading snapshot that’s two years out of date.”
Marle Roberts, Canadian Union of Public Employees (Alberta)

“The Minister and the Premier are using numbers they know are wrong to justify their plan to break promises made to nearly 300,000 Alberta workers and retirees. This isn’t just bad accounting, it’s deceitful politics.”
Guy Smith, Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE)

December 31, 2013 Projection of Financial Positions: Local Authorities Pension Plan (LAPP) and Public Service Pension Plan (PSPP)



Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.289.6528 (cell) or via e-mail

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MEDIA ADVISORY: Government fudging numbers on pension liability

Analysis shows unfunded liability getting smaller by about $1 billion

EDMONTON – Alberta’s public-sector pension plans are getting healthier, despite what Finance Minister Doug Horner claims.

Analysis by independent actuarial firm George & Bell shows the unfunded liability of Alberta’s two main public-sector pension plans has shrunk, meaning the plans are growing stronger without government meddling.

Leaders of Alberta's Public-Sector Unions will be available for comment today at 1:15 p.m. at the United Nurses of Alberta (UNA) offices (#700-11150 Jasper Avenue, Edmonton).


Leaders of Alberta’s Public-Sector Unions will be available for comment today at 1:15 p.m. at the United Nurses of Alberta offices (700-11150 Jasper Avenue. Edmonton).


1:15 p.m., Friday, March 7, 2014


UNA Offices (#700 – 11150 Jasper Avenue, Edmonton)


Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) President Gil McGowan
Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) President Guy Smith
United Nurses of Alberta (UNA) President Heather Smith
Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA) President Elisabeth Ballermann



Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.289.6528 (cell) or via e-mail

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Alberta budget based on lies

Government puts itself on “collision course” with workers

Edmonton – Today’s provincial budget is a flawed document designed around false economies and myths about public-sector workers.

During his budget speech, the Finance Minister Doug Horner argued that public-sector wages should be “competitive” with those in the private sector – completely ignoring the fact that Statistics Canada data shows that public-sector wages are statistically indistinguishable.

“As a result of this approach to budgeting, the government is putting itself on a collision course with workers,” AFL president Gil McGowan said. “Public-sector workers earn on average the same as their counterparts in the private sector. But this government has workers in the crosshairs – whether it’s attacking their pensions or their wages.”

The minister took aim at pension plans during his speech, insinuating that the plans needed drastic changes to keep them as defined-benefit plans – completely ignoring the fact that independent actuaries have confirmed that the unfunded liabilities of the two largest pension plans, the Local Authorities Pension Plan (LAPP) and the Public Service Pension Plan (PSPP), are shrinking, and will be paid off by 2025.

“This is a budget based on two big lies, and they’re big lies that are disrespectful to workers in health care, in education, in law enforcement and in every part of the public service,” McGowan said. “The facts are that public-sector worker compensation is on par with the private sector, and their pensions are modest, sustainable and stable.”

The budget, which includes plenty of spending on capital projects, does not have much allocated to maintaining the services that Albertans value. The Minister proudly trumpets how they’re ‘holding the line,’ on public-sector wages, ignoring how much those wages have been falling behind inflation. By comparison, wages in the private sector are going up on average three to five per cent each year.

“I’m concerned because this is a burning-bridges budget. It’s a budget that sets the stage for tension with labour, it sets the stage for employees looking for jobs elsewhere, and it sets the stage for costly court battles,” McGowan said.

“I might say that it sets the stage for labour strife, but they’ve made it illegal for me to suggest such a thing.”



Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.289.6528 (cell)
or via e-mail

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2014 Labour Coalition on Pensions - Open Ltr to LAPP Members - Mar 6

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2014 Backgrounder: Public-sector Wages

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Alberta Public-sector wages are “statistically indistinguishable” from private sector

U of T study busts myth that public-sector wages out-of-line with the private sector

Edmonton - Alberta’s public-sector workers are paid, on average, the same as their private-sector counterparts, according to data compiled by the University of Toronto (U of T) and released today by the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL).

“This study should silence the critics who continuously repeat the falsehood that Alberta’s public sector workers are overpaid,” AFL president Gil McGowan said.

The University of Toronto’s Institute for Competitiveness & Prosperity found that Alberta public-sector wages are on-par with private sector wages across the spectrum of comparable occupations.

“For years, public-sector workers have had to endure snipes that they’re overpaid and greedy, but this is simply not true,” McGowan said. “Public sector employees work hard for their money and provide services that are key to the health and prosperity of our province. It’s time to put all of these politically-motivated, negative stereotypes to bed.”

Using data from Statistics Canada, researchers found that people working in occupations at the lower-end of the wage scale, such as clerical and childcare workers, enjoy higher wages in the public sector than they would if they worked in the private sector. However, the reverse is true for higher-wage jobs, such as those in management, engineering, science and the skilled trades.

When these differences are averaged out across the public sector the U of T study concluded that the average wages paid in Alberta’s public and private sectors are “statistically indistinguishable.”

AFL Backgrounder: Public-sector Wages



Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.289.6528 (cell)
or via e-mail

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Redford’s vision-free Throne Speech pledges more broken promises

More public service cuts coming, says Alberta Federation of Labour

Edmonton – AFL President Gil McGowan said the Speech from the Throne is a blueprint for a rehash of Redford’s failed record: more cuts to front-line services, lack of revenue reform and a continuation of selling raw non-renewable resources at below-market prices.

“Premier Redford was elected on promises to safeguard our public services. Instead, she’s cut them and her agenda will continue this broken promise,” McGowan said, in attendance for the Speech from the Throne at the Alberta Legislature this afternoon.

McGowan said Albertans should be concerned about the government’s promise to hold spending to below population and inflation growth, while turning a blind eye to any semblance of revenue reform.

“Alberta’s booming, but program spending won’t reflect that. How many more jobs will be cut in healthcare and education?” asked McGowan noting that hundreds of jobs have already been cut for Alberta’s civil service.

“Add this to the failed rip-it-and-ship-it policy of raw-resource exports, rather than upgrading to higher value products, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster for the public services Albertans rely on.”



Gil McGowan, President, Alberta Federation of Labour, on site at the Legislature Rotunda,
780.218.9888 (cell) or via twitter @gilmcgowan

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Action Alert: Rally at the Leg for Pension Fairness

Rally at the Leg to defend pensions 

The Redford Government has proposed costly and irresponsible changes to your pension plan.  Make your voice heard on the first day of the new Legislative sessions.

For more information on the proposed government changes visit

ACTION: RALLY at the Opening of the Legislative session today (bring your bannners and signs).  Let's send a message to the Redford government.

WHEN:   Monday, March 3, 2014

              4:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

WHERE: Steps of the Alberta Legislature Building

 For more information, please contact the Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.483.3021

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Labour Coalition: Alison Redford awarded ‘Political Oscar’ for promise-breaking performance

EDMONTON – Alberta Premier Alison Redford was named the winner of a “Political Academy Award” this afternoon for her remarkable promise-breaking performance persuading so many Albertans she would fight to protect their right to a secure retirement.

“When Ms. Redford said she wanted Alberta seniors to be able to live their lives with dignity and respect, who could have imagined she would attack the modest pensions of her own government’s employees,” asked Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan, speaking on behalf of the Labour Coalition on Pensions.

The mock “Oscar” award ceremony in Churchill Square during which Premier Redford was also nominated for convincing Albertans she would protect their public health care system and for convincing them she would protect their public education system may have been light-hearted, but it had a serious point.

“The point was that the Progressive Conservative government is breaking promises to many groups of Albertans and attacking public services that Albertans value,” McGowan said. “What incredible acting skill it took for them to get elected!”

The judges picked the premier’s broken pension promise because her government is consistently doing the opposite of what it claims to be trying to achieve.

  • It says its policy on public sector pensions is designed to make the plans sustainable, while the report of the Auditor General of Alberta says it in fact puts the survival of the plans at risk
  • It says it wants to encourage inter-generational fairness while it in fact it intends to treat younger workers much worse in future
  • It says it wants to encourage recruitment and retention of the best public employees in government and health care, while it is in fact likely to prompt a serious skill shortage in those fields as workers rush to depart

Premier Redford did not attend the ceremony. Her award was accepted on her behalf of the thousands of Albertans who voted for her party thinking she would deal fairly with public employees, all Albertans and our public services.



Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.289.6528 (cell) or via e-mail

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