Alberta adopts joint governance structure for large public sector pension plans
On December 11, 2018, Alberta adopted Bill 27, which will transition the Local Authorities Pension Plan, the Public Service Pension Plan, and the Special Forces Pension Plan to a joint governance structure. Once the plans have transitioned to the new governance structure, newly created sponsor boards and corporations will be responsible for the plan design and administration, respectively, and the Alberta government will no longer act as the plan sponsor and administrator.
The three affected pension plans are large public sector pension plans, with a combined 450 employers, 350,000 members, and $59.3 billion of managed assets. The plans will continue to be under the jurisdiction of the Employment Pension Plan Act and the Alberta Superintendent of Pensions.
Role of the sponsor board
The legislation will transition the sponsor role for each plan from the Alberta government to a newly created sponsor board for each plan.
The three newly created sponsor boards will be made up of equal numbers of employee and employer representatives, providing the two sides with an equal say in managing and designing their plans to suit their needs.
The sponsor board will manage contribution and benefit levels, and will also establish the funding policy for the plan. The sponsor board will have the power to amend the pension plan and to change plan design.
The sponsor board will also establish rules respecting expenses that may be charged to the plan by the administrative corporation.
The sponsor board will not include retiree representatives, but is required to consider the needs of all members, including retirees.
Role of the administrative corporation
The plan trustee administrative roles will now be performed by the corporation of each plan. Directors of the corporation are also appointed equally by the employees and employers, but a person may not sit on both the sponsor board and corporation board. Appointment to either board is not subject to approval from the Alberta government.
Service agreements in place with the Alberta Investment Management Company and Alberta Pension Services will remain in place for next five years, and, after this period, any decisions to renew the contracts will be made by the corporations.
The affected plans will transition to the new structure on March 1, 2019, and regulations will be adopted in early 2019 to accommodate the new governance structure.
After March 1, 2019, the sponsor boards and administrative corporations will begin to manage their respective pension plans, and the government of Alberta will no longer act as sponsor and administrator for the plans.
Members will see little change over the short term, as the new legislation only affects the governance structure and does not impact plan benefits or how they are funded. The sponsor boards will be responsible for any future contribution and benefit changes, and the government will be removed from the decision making process.
The joint governance structure of public section pension plans has already been adopted by British Columbia and Ontario for large public sector pension plans. With Alberta also adopting this structure, other Canadian provinces may also consider establishing joint governance of their own public sector pension plans.