An eight-year legal effort to reverse a law that transformed New Brunswick’s public sector pension plan away from an indexed defined benefits model is being scrapped.
Pension Coalition NB, an association that represents 13,000 public sector retirees in the province, will end its legal efforts to oppose a 2013 bill that transformed N.B.’s public sector pensions from a DB model to a shared-risk model. The announcement follows a recent decision by the Court of Queen’s Bench Chief Justice Tracey DeWare. The ruling, reached in December, ended a lawsuit brought by a member of the association against the government.
While another legal avenue — to sue the government on the basis that the transformation of the pension plans violated the Charter rights of DB plan members — remains open, the association has decided it won’t pursue it. In a statement to members, the association said its previous efforts had been hampered by endless motions and briefs submitted by the provincial government’s legal team.
“We can only imagine what the province, the trustees and certain unions spent from the public purse to ensure that our case would never be brought before the courts. Your executive was never able to access, via right to information, the actual details of the costs incurred by opposing counsels, as transparency in this province is nowhere to be seen.”
Clifford Kennedy, spokesperson for Pension Coalition NB, says the association is extremely disappointed. “After a long weekend filled with conversations with our members and our lawyers, we have decided not to move forward. After years of having legal technicalities used against us, we feel our voice has not been heard.”
According to Kennedy, the government’s legal team didn’t understand his association’s concerns about the transfer away from a DB model, with lawyers frequently pointing out that pensioners were actually receiving 1.6 per cent more money than they would have under the previous model. While he doesn’t contest this point, he says these increases come at a cost since the gains can be reversed.
“If the market goes bad, we could see the annual increases we have accumulated since 2014 stripped away. According to our own research, that could cost each of us up to $155,000 over 20 years.”