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Legal Update and Continued Support

The Executive of Pension Coalition NB advises its members that we are at a critical point in our legal initiative to have the courts overturn the government’s legislated removal of our vested pension rights and to reinstate the pension bargain under which we laboured for so many years. A recap of the history of the file is useful.

 

Firstly, remember that when the regional rallies of retirees and long service employees were held, we made it clear that we were intent on limiting our legal claim to the single constitutional issue of age discrimination, which we felt could best determine our claim in the least expensive and most expeditious method possible. We expressly indicated that we would seek to proceed by application rather than the cumbersome, lengthier and more expensive process of proceeding by legal action.

 

However, the Court ruled on technical grounds that our action was not one that could be pursued by application. Our Notice of Application was ordered to be converted to a legal action, and although we did file a Statement of Claim within the time allowed by the Court, there has been no substantive forward movement in the action since.

 

During this same period, the Coalition continued working diligently with a small group of retirees who filed a second lawsuit (the Levesque case) advocating the interests of the retirees and public servants who were contributors to the PSSA plan.  Although that action has also been delayed at times by its own extraneous issues, the Executive of the Coalition has remained in contact with the principals and the representative plaintiff in that suit and has always sought to act in a manner complementary to the same.

 

We have also been in close contact with a number of CUPE local unions who decried government’s seeking to legislate away its own defined pension benefit obligations and were considering the possibility of initiating their own legal action. As a result of these contacts and discussions, an agreement has been reached between the Coalition and the CUPE local unions to jointly support and go forward with the legal action. The Halifax office of McInnes Cooper has been retained and instructed to proceed, and dates have been reserved for the necessary application hearings during the third week of October 2020.

 

The Coalition has invested in excess of $230,000 to date to protect the interests of retirees.  It is important to note that the Province and Trustees of the pension fund have spent in excess of $1.5-$2.0M against us and are continuing to try to dismiss this groundbreaking case.

These hearings will be pivotal to our attempt to hold the government to account through the courts. However, these hearings will have to be funded. For this reason, we are asking each member or supporter who would benefit from our success, to contribute meaningfully to the legal costs required to support the initiative. Mid-summer may not be the most convenient time for you to make your contribution, but we do need an indication of how we are proceeding before the end of September. If you have not made your contribution by then, do not be surprised if you receive a call from a fellow retiree to discuss the matter.

 

Some members, without knowing or understanding the details of the legislation, have asked why we continue to pursue legal action given there has been no financial loss since the legislation was enacted.  The reason the COLA (Cost of Living Allowance) has been granted to date is the unprecedented growth in the investment markets over the past seven years and not anything attributable to the current pension regime. The Telegraph Journal has reported that New Brunswick’s economic recovery has hit a wall. Our pension returns could easily hit a wall as well.

 

Remember that under section 7 of the pension legislation 2013, Ch. 44, the pension received by any contributor may be reduced to the initial base benefit earned under the former PSSA effective January 1, 2014, if the markets and the economy shrink. This means that we could end up losing all adjustments for inflation received after 2013!  Under the present regime, we must hope that there is no post COVID-19 economic recession. The Province has attempted to legislate away its responsibility in the event of a market downturn. Our action to resolve the legal inequity of such an attempt once and for all deserves your unwavering support!

 

May we suggest a donation of $100 or whatever you can afford. Your donations are tax deductible. You can support us by sending your cheque or money order to Pension Coalition NB, PO Box 3021, Fredericton, NB E3A 5G8.

 

Donations can also be made online through Pay Pal. Just go to www.pensioncoalitionnb.ca and click on Donate. Greater detail on claiming the tax deduction will accompany your receipt.

Thank you for your positive consideration of this request.

Claire LePage, Chair

Pension Coalition NB