The Corporation of the City of York Employee Pension Plan officially transferred the management of its assets and liabilities to the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System plan last week, as part of a broader initiative to transfer four pre-OMERS plans from the City of Toronto to OMERS.

The City of York plan was closed to new members and had assets of $36.1 million dollars at the time of the transfer, says Hatem Belhi, director of pension, payroll and employee benefits at the City of Toronto. As well, he noted the plan was fully funded on a solvency basis.

The City was able to proceed with the merger because regulatory changes in 2015 made it possible for single-employer plans to merge with multi-employer pension plans. “The City was looking for a while for alternatives to actually deal with those pension plans, and I think the change in legislation offered the perfect opportunity for us to start talking to OMERS; being our pension plan for the active employees, it made a lot of sense,” he says.

The City explored several options before reaching the decision to transfer to OMERS, says Belhi. “I think this gave the best outcome for our pensioners. So this would offer them the normal indexation that OMERS offers to its pensioners, and this was very much the win-win-win situation for the three parties and that’s why we went ahead with it.”

There are five City-sponsored pre-OMERS pension plans that were closed to new members since 1968. “There are no active members in those pension plans,” says Belhi.

The City of York’s plan is the first to transfer, but there are also plans to transfer the Metropolitan Toronto Pension Plan, the Metropolitan Toronto Police Benefit Fund and the Toronto Civic Employees’ Pension Plan to OMERS.

These plans will be transferred sequentially, subject to approval from the superintendent of the Financial Services Commission of Ontario, notes Belhi.

After that, he says they will determine how to proceed with the Toronto Fire Department Superannuation and Benefit Fund Plan. “For administrative purposes, we actually decided not to transfer it for now and we’ll be considering that at a later time,” he says.

Overall, Belhi considers this first move of many an exciting development. “I think this is actually really a great story for our pensioners and survivors, as well as OMERS and the City. So it’s a win-win-win type of situation. We are very excited about it.”