Scott Perkin fondly recalls his appearance before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance in 2010. The Canadian pension landscape was being shaken by funding challenges, record-low interest rates and the protest in September of that year by Nortel pensioners angered by the windup of their $2.5-billion underfunded plan. As president of The Association of Canadian Pension Management (ACPM), Perkin expected he’d be asked to outline the association’s position on one or two topics. Instead, committee members peppered him with questions on a host of issues.

“For me, and for ACPM, it was a great opportunity to educate and inform those who aren’t close to these issues as to how interrelated they really are,” he remembers.

That committee appearance stands as a perfect example of what initially drew Perkin to volunteer his time with ACPM. He calls his six-year term as president, from 2004 to 2010, an “exciting time,” as the economic crisis and the industry’s efforts to resolve funding issues gave rise to an increased focus by the media and the general public on pension coverage and adequacy. With that demand for more pension information, Perkin was able to help build the association into a trusted voice.

“ACPM has, I think, really positioned itself well in terms of the groundwork that it’s done over the last decade: researching some of these issues; developing policies; putting out thoughtful, considered papers and proper messaging; and acting as a go-to organization for policy-makers and regulators.”

At the same time as he was strengthening ACPM’s position in the Canadian pension landscape, Perkin was part of the team at the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan. Despite its position as one of the largest plans in the country, Teachers’ has dealt with many of the same challenges as other Canadian plans, such as funding gaps and demographic shifts. Perkin says his work at Teachers’ helped influence what he was able to do at ACPM, and vice versa.

“The work I was doing at Teachers’ helped the work I was doing at ACPM,” he explains, “because I brought to the table some unique skill sets, a lot of experience working at the biggest pension plan in the country and difficult issues around benefit design [and] funding.”

And although Perkin is proud of what he and his industry colleagues have been able to accomplish in recent years, he knows there is still significant work to be done in order to strengthen the retirement picture both for Ontario’s teachers and all Canadians.

To that end, while Perkin left Teachers’ last year after 15 years with the organization, he continues to work on many of the same issues in a new capacity, as director of pension and economic affairs with the Ontario Teachers’ Federation. In the role he started in January, Perkin will work closely with Teachers’ and the provincial government to make sure the plan remains strong and sustainable over the long term.

And his drive to advocate with ACPM hasn’t slowed, either. While Perkin has enjoyed spending more time with his sons—ages 17 and
20—since handing the association’s reins to current president Chris Brown at
the end of 2010, he has also continued to serve on ACPM’s board of directors, the executive committee and the national policy committee.

“There are lots of things we can do to make it better,” he says of Canada’s pension picture. “And I guess that’s what I’m really hoping for before I eventually decide to retire.”

Helen Burnett-Nichols is a freelance writer in Hamilton, Ont.

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Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. This article first appeared in Benefits Canada.

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