Alberta Government Proclaims Theft
of Workers' Pension Fund Legal
Hands Off Our Pensions!
Rally organized by Alberta nurses at the Alberta
Legislature, November 20, 2019, during passage of
Bill 22 to say No! to wage rollbacks and "Hands
Off Our Pensions!"
The Alberta government of Jason Kenney has
rammed Bill 22, the Reform of Agencies, Boards
and Commissions and Government Enterprises Act, 2019, a
174-page omnibus bill, through the Legislature.
The bill was introduced on November 18 and the
United Conservative Party (UCP) imposed "time
allocation" after only four hours of debate. The
bill received Royal Assent on November 22. Bill 22
amended or scrapped 31 different acts. It
abolished the Office of the Elections Commission,
which has levied more than $200,000 in fines for
violations of the elections act associated with
the UCP leadership race, and fired the
Commissioner, who is still conducting
investigations. Bill 22 also made it "legal" for
the Alberta government to essentially expropriate
the pension fund of Alberta teachers and put those
funds into the hands of the Alberta Investment
Management Corporation (AIMCo), the money manager
owned by the provincial government.
The bill removes
the option for Alberta's biggest public-sector
pension plans, the Local Authorities Pensions Plan
and the Public Services Pension Plan, to choose
their fund manager. Both are presently managed by
AIMCo, but had the option to withdraw and choose
another fund manager. It removed one of the
representatives of the Alberta Union of Provincial
Employees (AUPE) from the pension board and
replaced that representative with a management
representative. Bill 22 gives the government a
veto over union appointments to the government
employees' pension board on the basis that such
appointees must be "competent."
Speaking in the Legislature, the Finance Minister
made it clear that the Alberta government's
reasons for these changes have nothing to do with
guaranteeing security in retirement for public
sector workers and professionals. He explicitly
stated that it was to benefit the government, and
further described the workers' pension funds as
"public funds." In other words, he does not
recognize that these funds do not belong to the
governing cartel party.
These decisions were imposed on the entire public
sector and the 400,000 members of the pension
plans with absolutely no consultation with the
unions and no consent, and carried out with
lightning speed. Alberta Teachers' Association
President Jason Schilling called on the government
to "show us the numbers and convince us it is in
our interests, instead of unilaterally seizing our
pension assets." The government did not respond.
Schilling also called for a report from the
Auditor-General before the government proceeded
with Bill 22, but this also received no response.
Instead, the government continues to act to
destroy any equilibrium in the social relations
between the workers and the employers. It refuses
to recognize the right of the workers and
professionals to exercise control over decisions
as to how the pension funds are to be managed.
hubris and narcissism of Kenney and his government
is such that they seem convinced that they are
unstoppable. They are continuing their shock and
awe tactics based on this outlook, declaring that
the fact that they won the election means they
have a mandate to do whatever they please, and
even that this is what the people want. UCP leader
Jason Kenney did not even appear in the
Legislature to defend Bill 22. Instead he went to
Texas to woo investors, and declared that this
was, after all, his most important duty.
Kenney's efforts to silence any opposition to his
government's attacks on workers have been a dismal
failure. Teachers who have managed their own fund
for the past 80 years responded with a resounding
No! Not Without Our
Consent! More than 30,000 teachers
emailed their MLAs or the Premier to express their
opposition to this outrageous act of seizing
control of their pension fund. They filled the
galleries at the Legislature each night.
As well, close to 1,000 nurses from across the
province, together with workers from other unions,
rallied at the Legislature to say No! to wage
rollbacks and Hands
Off Our Pensions! Active and retired
workers sent thousands of emails telling the
government to stop its arrogant abuse of power.
Education workers also rallied to express their
opposition, and more actions are planned for the
coming weeks. Workers from the public sector
joined the striking CN workers on the picket
Public sector workers join CN workers' picket line
in Edmonton, November 23, 2019.
The UCP government continues to claim that
nothing has really changed and that the boards of
the respective plans, which are comprised of
representatives from the unions and employers,
will continue to set direction. But this is pure
deception because the option to choose another
plan manager has been eliminated. Without the
power to withdraw from AIMCo's control, the
pension plans have no recourse if they disagree
with the management of the retirement funds.
It is also deception that the government has no
control over AIMCo. The Alberta Investment
Management Corporation Act (Section 19)
states: "The Treasury Board may issue directives
that must be followed by the [AIMCo], the board,
or both." This gives the government the power, for
example, to direct the fund to increase its
already substantial share of investments in
Alberta-based oil and gas corporations.
actions to seize control of pension funds without
the consent of the working people to whom these
funds belong is a form of theft. The working
people demand to know what the government is up
to. It is clear that Jason Kenney is seizing
control of large pools of capital and has an
appetite for much more. He has moved some $30
billion worth of investments under AIMCo control.
Kenney has also revived Harper's call for Alberta
to withdraw from the Canada Pension Plan (CPP),
and establish an Alberta Pension Plan.
It is not accidental that while this legislation
was being passed in a manner never seen before in
the Alberta Legislature, Kenney was in Texas
stumping for the energy oligarchs and making who
knows what promises on their behalf to potential
investors. Kenney is showing on whose behalf he is
ruling and on whose behalf he is prepared to
trample on the rights of the hard-working public
sector employees. To use dictate in this manner to
seize more control over how these funds are
managed is an abuse of power and cannot stand.
Defined pension benefits that guarantee a
cultured standard of living until passing away are
a necessary component of modern life. Security in
retirement is an inviolable right which belongs to
every member of society. Bill 22 must be repealed!
This article was published in
Volume 49 Number 29 - November 30, 2019
Alberta Government Proclaims Theft
Of Workers' Pension Fund Legal: Hands Off Our Pensions! - Peggy Morton