Target Benefit Pension PlansPublished on 19 November 2014 Your Question Period by Senator James Cowan (retired)
Please press play to listen to the audio of this question. Please note that the audio is provided in the language in which the senators spoke. Senators may speak either official language in the Senate Chamber. For the full text of the translated exchange please click here.
Hon. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Opposition):
My friend Senator Greene was congratulating Senator Baker a short time ago for his initiative in improving our Question Period. I want to draw the attention of senators to our own initiative, which is to invite Canadians to submit questions, which we then ask on their behalf.
The question I have for the Leader of the Government in the Senate today is another arising out of a series of questions that Senator Cordy and I have asked over the last while about the proposed target benefit pension plans. This one today comes from Mike Moeller of Antigonish, Nova Scotia, who wrote as a follow- up to the questions we’d asked earlier.
His question is as follows:
In the year 2000, the Canada Post Pension plan was implemented, coming from the federal superannuation plan. I have been a member of the Pension Advisory Council for all 14 years, and have represented three bargaining units: Canada Postmasters and Assistants, the Union of Postal Communications Employees, and the Association of Postal Officials of Canada.
I feel that this government is pulling the rug out from Canada Post employees and retirees.
I am aware that we now have a commitment from the government that retirees will not be affected without their consent. Canada Post has been clear that there is a real possibility that a negative-option voting will be used when consent is placed on the ballots. That is the most undemocratic possibility to take place in any sector, and could result in an outcome that does not reflect the true voting of retirees.
All retirees will be contacted by Canada Post, which is troubling in itself, as their pension plans should not be touched in the first place. There are a variety of reasons as to why retirees cannot vote or have difficulty doing so. Negative-option voting is a process whereby all retirees receive a ballot to vote to consent or reject changes. The people who “do not vote” for whatever reason are then counted as consenting. This could mean that 80 per cent of ballots do not consent to changes, but if there are enough people who “did not vote,” they could be counted as consenting. This distorts the voting results.
People who do not vote should not be counted as either consenting or disagreeing with the changes.
My question is twofold:
Will the proposed Target Benefit Pension plan legislation allow for negative-option voting? Will employers and administrators be able to use negative-option voting for any of its stakeholders, including retirees?
My second questions is this, following a negative-option vote, does the government intend on allowing any accrued monies that have “already been paid into a Defined Benefit plan” to be replaced by a new Target Benefit Pension plan? All current employees, as well as retirees, should not have any of the monies that they paid into the Defined Benefit plan touched, altered, or changed.
Senator Carignan, what is the government’s response to Mr. Moeller?