By Alexander Delorme,
Premier Kenney doesn’t want you to have control over your pension. That’s the big takeaway from the UCP’s latest stealth-attack on the Public Service Pension Plan (PSPP) and the Local Authorities Pension Plan (LAPP).
The pandemic severely affected the way Albertans celebrated their December holidays—apart from a few self-entitled government MLAs—but just as in any other year, many AUPE members worked tirelessly through the holidays to ensure Albertans had access to the public services they depend on.
But while everyone was busy with work, family, and bracing for what 2021 might have in store, Premier Kenney gave the Alberta Investment Management Corporation (AIMCo) even more control over how it invests your pension funds.
AIMCo manages both PSPP and LAPP investments.
Along with other large funds, AIMCo controls around $118 billion in total funds. The company has made a lot of negative news lately because of its dangerous investments, including gambling on the price of oil when it’s clear no one should. Clear to everyone except Premier Kenney, of course, who himself has blown over $1.5 billion of Albertans’ money on the cancelled Keystone XL pipeline.
According to AUPE Vice-President Mike Dempsey, a representative on the PSPP Sponsor Board, the UCP is clearly plotting to take control of our pensions away from us.
“The Alberta Investment Management Corporation has been looking after our pension investments for over a generation,” says Dempsey. “With the Notley government we had to keep using AIMCo, but if they didn’t invest our money well, we had the option, after five years, to send them packing and find a new company to manage our pension investments.
“But then the UCP government came along and they decided to take away our option to get rid of AIMCo. Now, they have decreed that they want us to use AIMCo forever.”
It gets worse
And just when you thought not being able to get rid of AIMCo was bad enough, the UCP’s most recent attack means AIMCo doesn’t even have to listen to us.
“Now the government has come out with Ministerial Order 43, which allows AIMCo to ignore investment policy our pension boards come up with and refuse to implement changes we think they should make,” says Dempsey.
“Pension boards can draft policies to stop fund managers like AIMCo from making risky investments, but with this new Ministerial Order, we can’t do that. This will affect nearly 400,000 people who are in the plans.”
Because the UCP pushed through Ministerial Order 43, AIMCo and the government’s Finance Minister can control our pension investments, meaning they can invest in what they want instead of what is in the best interest of the pension plans. While both the PSPP and LAPP remain stable and healthy, this move by the UCP raises serious concerns about our retirement security.
Of course, meddling with our pensions has no effect on Premier Kenney himself.
Kenney left federal politics at the young age of 48, but he was a Member of Parliament long enough to ensure his retirement is covered by a juicy government pension plan. It is mean-spirited and hypocritical of him to spend so much time and effort attacking ordinary Albertans' public pension plans.
“The UCP is so out of touch,” says Dempsey. “They think our pensions are gold-plated, but the average payout of the LAPP was $18,000 a year. That’s hardly gold-plated. So why attack our modest pensions?”
Kenney deserves to see some real opposition and consequences for his actions, and Dempsey agrees. He notes AUPE members have a long history of fighting for their pensions and is confident they will beat back Kenney’s attack on our retirement security.
“This is the kind of fight that the Government of Alberta lost when they had a PC majority government in 2013,” says Dempsey. “They came out with Bills 9 and 10, wanting to change the kind of pensions we have, reducing the pension value for especially younger people new to the plan."
“They failed because there was a huge public outcry. We had town halls and fought back. Hold your elected leaders accountable and let them know we will not stand for this.”
But what should the government be doing?
What are the positive things a good government that cared about Albertans’ retirement would do?
First, the UCP obviously should stop attacking our pensions and let workers have fair and equal say in how our money is managed. But what then?
Dempsey thinks one of the keys is strengthening Alberta’s post-secondary institutions to invest in new technologies, like renewable energy. In his mind, Alberta and our pension plans need to look to the future.
Unboxing our Pensions: Why they are so important to AUPE members
“We have some really smart people here in Alberta, especially at our universities, who are working on new technologies,” he says. “Imagine how much stronger our pension plans could be if we could invest in the technologies of tomorrow, right here in our own province.
“Unfortunately, this UCP government is also attacking post-secondary institutions across the province, which if funded properly could not only provide opportunities for our pension plans, but also help train Albertans to lead in those very same new technologies.”
But to secure that future AUPE members will need to get organized and stand up for our pensions. Premier Kenney and his UCP government needs to hear loud and clear that they don’t want to mess with our pensions.
Learn more about your pension
If you want more information on your pension, you can visit the APS website at www.apsc.ca or email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.