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March 20 letter to Premier Alward from Coalition

March 20, 2013 

Hon. David Alward

Premier of New Brunswick


PO Box 6000

Fredericton, NB  E3B 5H1

Dear Mr. Premier:

I note with some dismay that we have not received a reply or even the courtesy of an acknowledgement of my letter of March 1, 2013.  You have publicly stated that “one size does not fit all” in terms of pension plans, yet you appear to us to be intent on imposing some form of shared risk plan on public servants without any shred of meaningful consultation and without even ensuring that the Province’s interests will truly be served by such measure.

For example, when the Province seeks to borrow money to fund its operations we rely on a borrowing underwriting syndicate who prepares a prospectus which tells prospective lenders about the Province and its credit history.  The Province and the borrowers also seek a legal opinion from numerous legal counsel as to the Province’s credit history and reliability.  Their legal opinion appears in any prospectus.  They are on record as telling investors that the province has an unblemished record of keeping its promises with respect to contractual obligations to pay money, a fact about which the Province is undoubtedly proud.

However, despite any erroneous advice you may have received to the contrary, what is being proposed in relation to the conversion of PSSA pensions to a shared risk plan under the PBA, is in fact a planned and deliberate abdication by the province of its contractual debt and trust obligations, with a purported accompanying legislative bar against legal action.  These obligations are similar to those debt obligations we negotiate with our lenders.  Such a precedent could have a chilling effect on the Province’s future borrowings and the rate of interest we are able to obtain.  In other words, the precedent you are proposing to set may have a result opposite from that intended.

It is for this reason (and many others) that we urge you to proceed collaboratively with us in examining and pursuing options to deal with the current underfunding of PSSA pensions.  Surely it is not yet as Ms. Rowland has brusquely indicated, a “done deal”.

We urge you to reconsider whether the deal is truly “done”.  As stated in my previous letter, our concerns with the forthcoming legislation dissipate if Government would honour the employment contract. Benefits under the PSSA have been altered on at least two previous occasions, but the existing retirees were always grandfathered and shielded against such changes.

If in fact conversion of existing pension benefits to retirees to a shared risk pension is a “done deal” and the specific terms of the proposed shared risk plan have been finalized, we would request that you share the complete details of the proposed shared risk plan including underlying actuarial assumptions, or table them in the House, so that all can examine them.

If the deal is not in fact “done” or you have not yet generated the precise details of what is being proposed, we would ask you to refer to the courts the matter of the Province’s ability to legislate away its contractual and debt pension obligations which have accrued under the PSSA, so that the same can be dealt with before any action along the lines publicly proposed, is taken.  This is what was done for the employees in the Quinn case, and we would anticipate the same consideration.

Please accept my assurance that we are not seeking confrontation, but rather a ‘win-win’ situation in this matter, where everyone can save face and we are assured that our interests are protected.  Is that too much to ask?

We would be very pleased to meet with you at any time to share information and provide you with further details of our concerns for pensioners and for the Province of New Brunswick.

Given the urgency of this matter, we would request a reply from you before the tabling of the budget.

Yours truly,

Bill Ayer, Chairman

Pension CoalitionNB

675 Golf Club Rd

FrederictonNB  E3B 7S5