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PENSION REFORM - William G. Preston

New Brunswick’s proposed public-service pension reform strategy has been given the name “Shared Risk.” This is an absolute misnomer; “Increased Risk” is the true description of the Alward government’s proposal.

There is as much security in playing catch-up with their proposed increased annual returns as there is in my investing in a lottery ticket.

If things go wrong, the incumbents will not be held responsible. Talk about “having your cake and eating it too”. Doubtless: “….let them eat cake” will be the response when it backfires and widows, widowers, and orphans are deprived of what was their negotiated right, not to mention those pensioners themselves who should be enjoying a well-deserved retirement without a continuing battle with their past employer, an employer who held their employees, via their ineffective unions, hostage to incremental pittance or zero % wage increases with the threat of lay-offs or pension fund penury. This is nothing new.

Media have been fed and reported what government has chosen to feed them. There has been no consultation with pensioners through government or unions, as unions have nothing to do with and refuse to have anything to do with pensioners. Space was recently provided for two abysmally uninformed commentators within the pages of l’acadie nouvelle newspaper who had obviously swallowed the government angle, hook, line, and sinker. This newspaper is the beneficiary of government sponsorship and is awaiting rescue funds. One of their premises was that existing pensioners should not be financed by future pensioners or current taxpayers; but their own forum receives funds from taxpayers. They would be more advised to be questioning why the government chose to ignore requests from local MLAs for a meeting within the Acadian Peninsula during the recent government “Information Sessions”.

When will people wake up? Taxpayers must accept the burden of their civil service and not be scandalized at the behest of their governments when those governments have created their own problems and exaggerated their predicament to instill fear then outrage. Overt additional taxation is anathema to all governments at the moment but that does not mean that citizens are not being taxed in more subtle ways.

The only outrage that should be manifested by all citizens is the disenfranchisement of 30,000+ of their pensioner fellow citizens. In spite of what present-day governments would have you believe, their main function should be to protect your right to participate in our democratic institutions and to maintain faith with yourselves whilst following their accepted and understood mandate prior to their election to govern, not to embark upon hidden agendas, cater to special interest groups, obfuscate, and create division.

It is all around us. We have a federal government that rejects any opposition within its own ranks and governs with more affiliation to dictatorship than democracy. The Maritime premiers are more than conversant with the destructive results of E.I. policy reform on their workers, but Premier Alward is apparently unaware of the effect of his own proposed reforms upon retired government employees. He even goes so far as to adopt the same dictatorial manner as the federal government, through a deliberate attempt to misinform, ignore, bull-doze opposition and promote the relinquishing of billions of pension dollar assets from the New Brunswick government coffers and administration into the hands of Bay/Wall Street financiers and bankers. Oh, there will be oversight… arm’s length. The grudging thanks filthy lucre will give for this will, no doubt, be a measly 0.125% less on NB’s borrowing rate. No, what am I thinking? They will agree to maintain our present credit rating, which was probably red-lined in the last great recession of 2008-2009, even though the cost of borrowing for the banking system is at the lowest it’s been since the Great Depression.

"There's no question that this is a time when corporations have taken over the basic process of governing," - John Kenneth Galbraith.

More appropriately:

“The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable.” – John Kenneth Galbraith.

More appropriately in this case refers to the nonsensical postulation that the pension funds of whichever retiree the government has chosen to manipulate has gone, within the time frame of a short-sighted agenda, from an established surplus to an astronomical deficit. There is neither an unmanageable deficit nor shortfall nor unfunded liability, unless one chooses to adopt a new pension fund format, i.e., shared (increased) risk program which requires an immediate influx of funds to establish its credibility, thus being in deficit prior to inauguration.  New Brunswick debt is clearly piggy-backing on retirees’ pension funds.

There are those amongst us who feel that disputes with government should be civilized and rational, compassionate and decorous, legitimate and solvable. Very commendable, however most unrealistic when dealing with ambiguous characters who have relinquished their mandate to govern according to the accepted norms of civilized societies, wherein a contract is a contract and citizens of every stripe are treated with respect, accorded innate individual power, given control over their elected representatives, and are worthy of more than an off-hand sniff of the nose from their governments when justifiably outraged.

Personally, I reject any consultation or apologies or sops from the Alward government and complicit union representatives who will spin any rapprochement as unconditional acceptance of their own agenda and the agreement of 30,000+ retirees to being accepting of less than was originally bargained for.

Personally, I accept only what was and is my right: to maintain the status quo for existing government retirees.

I believe that any further interaction with the Alward government without its unconditional return to the status quo enjoyed by current retirees is a total waste of time. At this point, a court challenge to their machinations and conspiracies against the sacrosanct conditions of contracts between the Crown and its subjects is the only alternative.

I have no hidden agenda. I have no affiliations other than being a retired public servant, I have no desire to engage in Alward’s war on retirees, I know little of the people affected by these events (only an approximate number), but the scandalous activities to date of the Alward government cry out for participation in the cause of reinstating justice, democracy, truth and retribution for those who have contributed to the well-being of New Brunswick (not as politicians but as faithful servants) and to every citizen (not just taxpayer) of New Brunswick; we are mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers and have worked for New Brunswickers in all the ways they should recall, and not with our hands out. Society must not be coerced into believing that we are responsible for our own financial woes, nor that it is expected to bail us out from a non-existent pension fund debt. Divide and conquer is the first strategy in this war: we must not choose the side of shady ambiguities.

To my fellow government retirees: wake up, get radical and defend yourselves! Recognize the ambiguous character in the night and broad daylight. Tell your friends and let us get the legal system working for us.

William G. Preston.