The government’s takeover of the teachers’ pension plan suggests that it doesn’t care about teachers’ views, says ATA president Jason Schilling.
“This makes me worry that teachers’ voices don’t matter to this government,” Schilling said after the government passed legislation that will transfer assets from the Alberta Teachers’ Retirement Fund (ATRF) to the Alberta Investment Management Company (AIMCo), a Crown corporation.
Bill 22, which contains the Teachers’ Pension Plans Act, passed its third and final reading on Nov. 21.
“Teachers are incensed by the aggressive use of closure three times in the past 16 hours to ram this legislation through all three stages of debate in less than a day,” said Schilling. “It erodes trust between teachers and government.”
Tens of thousands of teachers expressed their concern over Bill 22, the Reform of Agencies, Boards and Commissions and Government Enterprise Act, 2019. More than 30,000 emails have been sent to MLAs through the handsoffmypension.ca website.
“This is teachers’ money,” said Schilling in a news release. “Teachers should have a say in how it is invested, and teachers must be consulted before a significant takeover like this is implemented.”
Sandra Johnston, chair of the ATRF board, met with Finance Minister Travis Toews in early November for insight into why the government is pursuing this course of action. Toews was unable to provide Johnston with any hard evidence proving AIMCo’s superiority, claiming it could not be released until the bill was tabled.
Two days later, however, Toews posted an open letter to all ATRF members on his Facebook page, outlining AIMCo’s superior performance supported by the previously “embargoed” evidence. The figures listed by Toews showed AIMCo outperforming ATRF. Data gathered by the ATRF and provided to Toews indicate the opposite.
“This only serves to confuse our members,” replied Johnston in a follow-up letter, “particularly when your analysis has not been shared with either the ATRF board or its members.”
The fund analysis discrepancy prompted Johnston to contact Alberta’s auditor general and request a full and independent review of the data. A day later, Schilling also petitioned the auditor general to pause the bill and enlist an unbiased third party to determine if the move is in the best interest of teachers. No pause was implemented, and the Kenney government invoked closure on the bill.
“It’s a shameful move by the governing party,” Schilling said.
School athletics impacted
The 172-page omnibus bill contains a variety of items ranging from the elimination of the election commissioner to the dissolution of Alberta Sport Connection. This was an arm’s-length organization that oversaw the funding of the Alberta School Athletic Association (ASAA), which provides structure and co-ordination for school sports and competitions across the province.
ASAA executive director John Paton says he’s unsure of the amount or source of future funding but added that a cut in funding will most likely translate into a rise in membership fees for schools.
“We’ve received no communication from anyone on what this means,” he said.
With a membership of 373 schools, the ASAA provides services for more than 50,000 school athletes and 9,000 coaches and volunteers. ❚
ATA past president Greg Jeffery participates in a pension rally at the Alberta legislature on Nov. 20. The rally was organized by the United Nurses of Alberta and attended by representatives of several other public sector unions.