ATA to Challenge Pension Order in Courts

2021 01 26

The Alberta Teachers’ Association’s Provincial Executive Council (PEC) has voted unanimously to initiate legal action against Finance Minister Travis Toews’s ministerial order (MO) which reduces teacher control of pension investments.

PEC received legal advice on Friday that identified new avenues for a legal challenge as a result of the ministerial order imposing an investment management agreement (IMA) on the Alberta Teachers’ Retirement Fund (ATRF) and the Alberta Investment Management Corporation (AIMCo).

“This offensive and over-reaching ministerial order, which negates promises made by government officials when passing Bill 22, needs to be stopped and we will turn to the courts to do so,” says ATA president Jason Schilling.

Schilling says there are both legal and political issues at play.

“Teachers were betrayed by their MLAs, the minister and the premier when this imposed IMA failed to live up to their promises made to respect the ATRF’s ability to direct the investment of teacher pension dollars,” says Schilling. “We will fight the order in court, but there still needs to be political accountability for the broken promises.”

Schilling encourages teachers and retirees to continue their advocacy with MLAs, noting the broken promises social media cards available at www.handsoffmypension.ca.

On November 7, 2019, Minister Toews said in the legislature that “AIMCo will invest according to the policies set by the ATRF board,” but the imposed IMA offers AIMCo a veto on investment decisions that it has sole discretion to use with no ability for ATRF to appeal.

Teachers still hold out hope that the minister will honour the pledges he made earlier, says Schilling, and that on this basis an acceptable arrangement will be concluded between AIMCo and ATRF. But he says the MO provides AIMCo with a backstopped position that it is unlikely to negotiate away. The preferred solution is an agreement that serves the shared interests of teachers and government in having a well-managed, cost-effective and responsive teachers’ pension plan.

Association lawyers are now working on the court application, which will be filed when it is ready. The foundations and basis of the Association’s challenge will be revealed in due course before the courts.