Manitoba Liberals, union concerned with direction of province’s pension proposals

Manitoba’s Liberal Party is concerned about a number of pension plan design changes put forth by the province’s Conservative government in a public review earlier this month.

“We are extremely concerned about the direction the Pallister government is taking on pensions,” Dougald Lamont, the leader of the Manitoba Liberals, said in an email to Benefits Canada.  

The pension consultation, which was announced on Jan. 11, includes the consideration of new plan designs, including target-benefit and shared-risk plans. The pension committee’s report referred to reforms in other jurisdictions, such as target-benefit plans in Alberta and British Columbia and shared-risk plans in New Brunswick. The consultations will also look at whether the new plan design should be available to both single- and multi-employer plans and if the rules should allow for converting future benefit accruals only.

Read: Manitoba pension consultations to consider target-benefit, shared-risk plans

If they were giving current employees the opportunity to choose between defined benefit or shared-risk plans, it might be passable,” said Lamont. “As it stands, however, it looks as though the Pallister government is considering retroactively punishing existing retirees and employees, which is completely unacceptable.”  

The Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union is also urging the provincial government to rethink the proposals. “Manitobans who have worked hard for many years and invested in their retirement deserve to retire with income security,” said the union’s president Michelle Gawronsky, in a news release, noting that the Conservative Party pledged to union members during the 2016 election that they wouldn’t make any changes to public pension plans if elected.

“They should feel confident that their long-term financial plans won’t be derailed by the short-sighted changes proposed here.”

Lamont echoed that sentiment. “Huge numbers of Manitobans and Canadians do not have adequate retirement savings,” he said. “Undermining existing pensions for retirees and current employees alike will do nothing to increase the retirement savings of people who have none.”

Read: New Brunswick’s shared-risk conversion faces a flurry of legal attacks