EDMONTON - The leaders of public and private sector unions affiliated with the Alberta Federation of Labour are throwing their support behind Bill 203, The Pension Protection Act, a private member’s Bill put forward by NDP Labour Critic Christina Gray.
Bill 203 seeks to reverse the significant changes that the UCP made to Alberta’s public-sector pension plans with Bill 22, the Reform of Agencies, Boards and Commission and Government Enterprises Act (2019). Specifically, Bill 22 undermined the independence of Albertan pension plans by giving the government more power to control who sits on pension boards and by forcing those pension plans to use the controversial government-owned investment manager, AIMCo.
“Alberta unions pushed hard for many years to win independence for public-sector pension plans in our province. This was a big priority for us because we wanted to prevent governments and politicians from interfering with the retirement savings of hundreds of thousands of Albertans,” said AFL president Gil McGowan.
“We also pushed hard for Alberta pension plans to have the right to choose investment managers other than AIMCo. Concerns about AIMCo’s underperformance and lack of responsiveness to their clients are not new. Both employee and employer representatives on pension boards have been complaining about these things for years and years. With the passage of Bill 22 last fall, the UCP threw out all the progress that had been made in terms of pension independence and they, once again, handed the sole responsibility for investing the retirement saving of hundreds of thousands of Albertans to AIMCo, even though both pension boards and many pension savers and retirees themselves opposed the idea. That’s why we support Ms. Gray’s private members Bill. Together, employees and employers had fixed Alberta’s pension system. Then the UCP broke it. Bill 203 would put it back together.”
AFL-affiliated unions also support Bill 203 because it would keep Alberta in the Canada Pension Plan (CPP). McGowan described Jason Kenney’s notion of withdrawing from CPP in favour of an Alberta-only plan as “reckless and irresponsible”. CPP is one of the most highly-regarded pension plans in the world with low investment costs and a history of security and stable returns.
“Why on earth would Albertans want to take their retirement savings, which are being so well-managed, and hand them over to AIMCo, which has a long history of sub-par returns and lack of responsiveness to the clients they serve? The current controversy with AIMCo should act as a big red flag. This is not a road that Albertans should allow the government to go down. Leaving CPP is just political theatre for Jason Kenney and the UCP. But if we actually did it, it would threaten the retirement security of all Albertans. Real world pension security simply has to take priority over the antics and rhetoric of politicians. That’s why all Albertans should get behind Bill 203 and demand that it be passed by all MLAs. We have to put an end to the government playing games with the retirement savings of Albertans.”
McGowan continued, “The UCP needs to understand that money for Albertan workers’ retirements are not up for grabs for the government to use as they please. One thing that we have learned through the various government responses to COVID-19 is that the federal government and federal programs are not the boogeymen that the UCP has been making them out to be. Alberta workers are served well by the current CPP and have nothing to gain by switching to an Alberta-only plan. Rather, they stand to lose retirement security with such a short-sighted move.”
Director of Communications, AFL