Pension Benefits

Fall 2006 CSANews Issue 60  |  Posted date : May 30, 2007.Back to list

Hi Folks!

If you have been a regular reader of this column, you will recall my comments about the pension plan that I and 2,300 other former employees belonged to. We received notice from The Trustee Board that our pension income will be cut in half and application had been made to close the plan out. That was back in March of 2003.

Would you believe it – we are still only receiving half pension. Many of our pensioners are destitute now, but who cares? Not the government. Not the plan sponsors.

The situation here is not unlike the reason that the Canadian Snowbird Association was founded. Back then, the Ontario government decided to ignore the portability clause of the Canada Health Act and caused those of us who travelled out of the country to suffer a 300 per cent increase in our health insurance premiums.

Today, the Pension Benefits Act covering multi-employee plans stipulates that half of the Board of Trustees should be made up of pensioners. Every member of the trustee board was appointed by the sponsors – no pensioner representation. The largest sponsor has two of its vice-presidents sitting on the board and one of these is the chairman.

All Ontario pension plans are overseen by the Ontario Financial Services Commission under the wing of the Finance Ministry.

When we first met with Finance Minister Greg Sorbara, we presented him with a list of the trustees and showed that each held a senior position in the sponsor’s business – no representation from pensioners. We asked that he instruct the FSCO to refuse the request to close the plan out because the board was improperly constituted. No such luck.

I wrote to several MPPs about this problem and on December 14, 2004, Minister Sorbara wrote to advise that he agreed that the board was improperly constituted and FSCO agreed to correct this problem. That’s like closing the barn door after the horse has gone.

Here’s how the board attempted to make the change – the trustee chairman held three meetings across Ontario to comply with FSCO’s request. In the chairman’s opening comments, he stated that if anyone wanted to run for the board, he would most likely become part of the class action suit. Secondly, he emphatically stated that if anyone planned to run for the board with the intent of changing our request to close the plan out– forget it – that was not an option. No one offered to run for the board, but FSCO reported to the Finance Minister that this problem had been taken care of.

Another dead end, but someone recommended getting in touch with the Ontario ombudsman. What does he do? He protects us innocents from the guiles of the government. We sent him several hundred signatures and he said,“OK, I’ll look into your problem.” On December 2, 2004, Ombudsman Lewis wrote me a letter and told me that the problem of the board makeup had been solved and thus there was no need for the commission to rescind or revoke the wind-up of the plan. Some investigation.

When a new ombudsman came onto the scene, I was pleased to hear that he would leave no stone unturned to solve a problem.

I sent all pertinent data to him for review and action, with particular reference to the trustee board makeup and the fact that the previous ombudsman had only asked FSCO if this had been taken care of, and the answer had been in the affirmative.

I received a letter from the new ombudsman dated September 6, 2005 stating that I had provided no new data for review, therefore this case was closed and don’t bother me again unless you have new evidence.

Aren’t we lucky to have such people helping us solve our problems?

I advised Mr. Marin that the conclusions drawn by all parties about the board makeup would be similar to the following: A man gets drunk in a bar one night and while driving home, hits and kills a pedestrian. The next day, he appears before a judge and the charges are read. The prisoner says,“Yes judge, I did kill that man. When I woke up this morning, I realized what a terrible thing I had done and I have sworn off booze forever. You can see, judge, that there is no reason to incarcerate me because this can never happen again.” Now the judge doesn’t buy this story, but the two ombudsmen, who decided that the trustee board makeup had solved our problem, would have let this guy go.

On April 12, 2006, the Deputy Superintendent of Pensioners sent a letter to the chairman of the trustee board stating that FSCO refuses to approve the wind-up report. This was our first request to the Finance Minister, and to FSCO, some three-anda- half years ago. Now the appeals will begin. Aren’t we lucky to live in a democratic society?

I retired back in 1984 and, after all this nonsense caused by the government’s lack of concern about following the regulations, I hope that it has the courage to correct the wrongs perpetrated on some 2,300 pensioners, because I want to quit work.

I’ll leave you with this final thought:“Tough times never last, tough people do”.

God Bless.