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Bill 32 (2006/2007)

The Superannuation (Supplementary Provisions) Amendment Act, 2006

Second Reading
From Hansard - 22 November 2006

To view this section on video, click here, and start play at 2:23:18.
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Mr. Hart: — Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. It’s certainly a . . . I’ve been looking forward to enter into the debate on this Bill. This is the Bill that this government finally and reluctantly put forward to deal with the long-standing issue of underfunding to pensions for former civil servants, Madam Deputy Speaker.

It’s something that a group of retired civil servants have asked for for many years, and the provisions in this Bill only partially fulfill what those retirees have asked for. It’s something that they’ve been working on for many, many years, Madam Deputy Speaker. I know this was one of the first issues that was brought to my attention shortly after my election to this House back in 1999.

And I’ve had a constituent who has worked tirelessly on this issue and finally, through the co-operation of the members on this side of the House and the association of retirees, we were able to embarrass this government into taking action, Madam Deputy Speaker — action that they took reluctantly. But they were forced into doing . . . at least partially addressing this, Madam Deputy Speaker.

This government and those people on that side of the House pretend to be the protectors of the working men and women of this province. They like to stand in their places and tell everyone that will listen to them that they are protecting the rights of the working men and women in this province. And particularly they pretend to be the protectors of the civil servants that provide the valuable services to the people of this province.

But yet, Madam Deputy Speaker, when those civil servants retire, basically what they’ve done is they’ve ignored them. They’ve ignored them for many, many years and refused to address this issue. Now the Minister of Finance chirps from his seat that he did this great thing. But if it hadn’t have been for the fact that the retirees in the spring session filled these galleries and we asked embarrassing questions of him, Madam Deputy Speaker, this issue would still wouldn’t be addressed, that any increases in their pensions would be at the whim of this government, Madam Deputy Speaker.

And we should look at the record of this government and that Minister of Finance. In the press release the Minister of Finance proudly proclaims that this issue has been addressed in an ad hoc manner for us since 1965 and that there was only 8 years where there was no increase given to this group of retirees.

Well, Madam Deputy Speaker, for the information of those people that may be viewing these proceedings and for the members of this House, two of those years came in this century. In the year 2000 the retirees under this plan received a zero per cent increase in their pension. And also the same in 2004, Madam Deputy Speaker. They did receive a reasonable adjustment to their pensions in 2003. Just a mere coincidence that that would coincide with the last provincial election? And then what did those people get from this government after the 2003 election? A big fat zero as far as an increase, Madam Deputy Speaker.

This is the regard that these people have for those retired civil servants that have worked tirelessly for this province and the people of this province. It’s absolutely shameful, Madam Deputy Speaker, as to the way they have been treated. Yet they stand in their place and they proclaim to anyone who will listen, to the world, that we are the protectors of the working people of this province. It’s a great example of say one thing and do another, as we see it so often in this province from those members on that side of this House, from this NDP government, Madam Deputy Speaker.

Madam Deputy Speaker, as I said, this issue and this Bill is the result of actions taken by the association of retirees that are under these defined benefit plans. They came to this House, they filled the galleries. My colleague, the Finance critic, the member from Saskatoon Silver Springs, asked the questions on their behalf. And then what happened after that?

And I believe the only reason why we have this Bill today is because those retirees, they surrounded the Premier and forced him to deal with the issue in front of the cameras, Madam Deputy Speaker. And at that time the Premier agreed that he would meet with them at a future date along with his Finance minister. And I understand, Madam Deputy Speaker, that that meeting took place on July 13 with representatives of the retirees, the Finance minister, and I believe that meeting took place in the Premier’s office . . . [inaudible interjection] . . . or in the building. The Finance minister hollers that it was some other room in this building.

But nonetheless I’m not sure . . . You know, as a result of this meeting, I really wonder whether the Finance minister was there. Because the Finance minister’s recollection of that meeting differs substantially from the other people’s recollection of what took place at that meeting. But nonetheless the meeting took place on July 13 and apparently the Finance minister was there along with the Premier and, Madam Deputy Speaker, I would like to quote from a letter that was sent to the Premier on November 14 by a Mr. Alf Zimmerman, president of the Saskatchewan Retirees Association.

And before I quote from the letter I should just state that in this letter to the Premier Mr. Zimmerman points out that the indexing of the pension was not the only issue that needs to be dealt with. The Finance minister, he stands up and says, well we did much better than Alberta and we did much better than Manitoba and look how great we are. We’re looking after our people. But what he fails to tell everyone is that there are a number of other issues that need to be dealt with which the other provinces in fact have dealt with. Things like medical, dental, and health benefits. Addressing the lost benefits that took place since 1965, Madam Deputy Speaker. Improvements to spouses’ allowances and standardization of death benefits. None of those issues were addressed. The only thing that this minister did is said, well we’ll give you 70 per cent of CPI [consumer price index], we’ll do some . . . and we’re so much better than everyone else.

Well in fact when you look at the total package of what this government is offering versus what’s been offered in the other provinces, Manitoba and Alberta, perhaps the indexing in Manitoba and Alberta is slightly lower but they have addressed these other issues. So when you put the whole package together the retirees in our two neighbouring provinces on either side are much better off than our people here in Saskatchewan, Madam Deputy Speaker. . . . [inaudible interjection] . . . And the minister chirps from his seat. He should stand up and address these issues. He should meet with . . . once again with the retirees and address these issues.

Getting back to the letter, Madam Deputy Speaker. Mr. Zimmerman writes in his letter, he says — and now I’m quoting — he says:

Mr. Premier, our recollection of discussions at that meeting include your direction to Finance Minister Thomson and his staff “to develop a package, satisfactory to both sides, and bring forward the necessary legislation to be dealt with at the Fall sitting of the Saskatchewan Legislature.”

Mr. Zimmerman goes on to say,

Mr. Premier, our interpretation of those [directions and your] discussions and your directive to Minister Thomson was that there would be some consultation respecting the resolution of our concerns and the required provisions of the enabling legislation. To this date your directive for consultation has not taken place.

And this letter was written on November 14, the date that that minister, or shortly after the date this minister tabled the legislation. So the understanding of the representatives of the retirees at the July 13 meeting is that there would be consultation.

Well the only consultation that was done was a telephone call from the Minister of Finance to Mr. Zimmerman the day that the legislation was announced. There was absolutely no consultation, Madam Deputy Speaker.

So here once again we have a government that . . . an NDP government that says we consult with the people. They consult with the people like they consulted with the people of northern Saskatchewan when they introduced their new fire management strategies. There was no consultation.

Particularly, that minister failed to consult at the direction of his Premier. I wonder how that’s working over there, Madam Deputy Speaker . . . Mr. Deputy Speaker. I’m guessing that there are more problems behind the scenes than we see in public, Madam Deputy . . . Mr. Speaker. We keep changing slots here. Sorry, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

So, Mr. Deputy Speaker, as I said earlier, we have a government here that pretends that they’re the protectors of the working men and women of this province, particularly the civil servants. If someone should dare make a remark that may reflect poorly or be perceived to reflect poorly on the working men and women, they jump to their feet and say, that’s not correct. You can’t do that.

Yet what do these people do? Once they’re done . . . Once the public servants have provided their service to the province of this . . to the people of this province, they say, we don’t really need you any more so just go away. We’ll give you some money, but we’re not going to deal with the issues and force them to take action like filling the galleries and corralling the Premier in the rotunda before we get some action on this Bill, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

So, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I think we need . . . Because that government didn’t consult with the various groups that are affected by this legislation, we certainly need to do that, Mr. Deputy Speaker. And we will be taking our time to do that. So, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I would move now that we adjourn debate on this Bill.

From Economy Committee Hansard - 1 March 2007

To view these proceedings on video, click here. Windows Media Player is required.

The following set of questions were directed towards Ms. Kathy Sutherland from the Public Employees Benefit Agency, following her presentation to the committee. This section begins at 8:38 in the video.

Mr. Hart: — Thank you Mr. Chair. Ms. Sutherland, how many people, retired people would be affected by this proposed change in Bill 32? What are the numbers of . . . And the minister in his remarks, second reading remarks, referred to a number of pension plans. Could you give us a breakdown; would you have the numbers that are associated with each one of those groups? Or would you have a total number?

Ms. Sutherland: — I’ve got a total number, it’s almost 8,000.

Mr. Hart: — Almost 8,000.

Ms. Sutherland: — Yes.

Mr. Hart: — And are these pension plans . . . As people commence employment with various government departments and agencies, are new people being added to these plans, or it’s a closed number?

Ms. Sutherland: — These are closed plans.

Mr. Hart: — Okay.

Ms. Sutherland: — When the Public Employees Pension Plan was introduced in 1977, at that the point the current plans were closed to new members. So they’re closed plans and they’re not accepting any new members.

Mr. Hart: — Did the current members of these various plans have the option to join the new plan? They were given that option at that time.

Ms. Sutherland: — Yes.

Mr. Hart: — But the plans that we are talking about now, that we’re dealing with in Bill 32, were plans that were in existence prior to the new pension plans.

Ms. Sutherland: — Yes. And those plans are the Public Service Superannuation Plan, what we call the PSSP; the Power Corporation Superannuation Plan; the Liquor Board Superannuation Plan; the Saskatchewan Transportation Company Superannuation Plan; and the Anti-Tuberculosis League Superannuation Plan. And there’s also the Provincial Court judges who retired prior to April 1, 2003, and members of the Legislative Assembly who’ve retired under the old MLA defined benefit plan are eligible. But the total number is approximately 1,000.

Mr. Hart: — So out of 70 per cent of CPI, if we assume CPI of two and a half per cent or 2 per cent for easy figuring, what would the annual additional cost be compared to no increase. What are we looking at in terms of additional dollars?

Ms. Sutherland: — Let’s see, the last year the increase was 2.3 per cent, or that was the change in the CPI, and the superannuates got 100 per cent of that. So if it had been 70 per cent, let’s see, I think the cost was about 2.4 million.

Mr. Hart: — For 100 per cent.

Ms. Sutherland: — For 100 per cent.

Mr. Hart: — Okay, okay. Well that at least gives us some sort of an idea of the magnitude of additional dollars that we’d be looking at. Thank you.

. . . The following section begins at 21:43 in the video.

Mr. Hart: — Thank you, Mr. Chair. Ms. Sutherland, when you looked at what pension plans were being offered to retirees in our two neighbouring provinces, I believe you said Alberta — if I heard correctly — Alberta’s at 60 per cent and Manitoba’s 66.7 or in that neighbourhood. But do you know, do they also offer additional benefits such as health and dental and death benefits, those sorts of things? Do Manitoba and Alberta also have that part of their overall superannuation plans for their retirees?

Ms. Sutherland: — I’m sorry. I don’t know.

Mr. Hart: — You don’t know. Okay. Thank you.

Ms. Sutherland: — But I do know that Saskatchewan is quite unique in terms of its pension plans, specifically with our closed plans. In a lot of the other provinces, their defined benefit plans are still open, so they’re accepting new members. And in a lot of . . . in fact in, I think it’s most of the other provinces, the cost of indexing is worked into the contribution rates. So what ends up happening is that basically the employees are contributing to the cost of the indexing.

The following set of questions were directed towards Mr. Blake McGrath, representing the Saskatchewan Federation of Union Retirees, following his presentation to the committee. This section begins at 1:03:00 in the video.

Mr. Hart: — Mr. McGrath, just for information purposes, can you explain who your members are? I realize that you’re retired civil servants, but there’s also another organization, the Sask Retirees Association. What is the difference between your organization and that organization in the membership makeup and so on? And how many members would you represent?

Mr. McGrath: — We represent some 4,000 members, I believe, through affiliates throughout Saskatchewan, about half a million people across Canada. And our members are made up of anyone that has been a union employee or union member at any time, whether he comes from management or wherever. It doesn’t matter where he comes from. He can be a member of our organization — any union, any employer — as long as he’s a senior and a retired worker.

Mr. Hart: — Thank you for that.

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