We seek the repeal of all federal superannuation act clauses denying survivor benefits based on either marriage after age 60 or marriage after retirement.
In the past, other groups have sought this kind of change. However, they worked independently and would only challenge one of the restrictions.
We are the first to address both versions of the legislation. We chose this approach because, although the language is different, the results are not. Surviving spouses are denied pensions.
Who is leading the way forward?
In most provinces, in both public and private sectors, pension legislation replicates the federal standards and considers the “after-retirement spouses” as not eligible for a survivor pension. There are important exceptions.
In Quebec, the Act respecting the Government and Public Employees Retirement Plan – 1983 considers as eligible the spouse at the date of the retiree’s death. This rule is applied in the main plan, the GPERP, for public servants, employees in education and health services and others. It is also applied in specific plans for certain groups such as police officers, judges, municipal councillors, and Members of the National Assembly.
Another component of the Quebec legislation, the Supplemental Pension Plans Act -1989, regulates plans for employees in the private sector and for municipal and university employees. This act offers a choice to pension plan sponsors: they may follow the “standard rule” i.e. the spouse at the date of retirement or, they may use the clause “the spouse at the death of the retiree”, which extends the eligibility to a post-retirement spouse.
In Ontario, the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS) did so in 1991, recognized that it is an issue of fairness. OMERS, representing 526 thousand members, determined that a spouse after retirement has the same right to a survivor pension as a spouse at the date of retirement. OMERS is among the Top 5 Pension Funds in Canada with assets of $105 billion.
Why has this unfairness persisted elsewhere?
We believe that various Government analyses do not use actual family status data on which to base their cost assumptions.
We conducted a poll to acquire family status data of the retirees in one pension plan and shared the survey results with Bernard Dussault, the former (1992-1998) Chief Actuary for the federal government. He was pleased that a poll had finally been conducted, and he liked the questions and the way our poll was structured.
Using our poll results, Bernard conducted a thorough analysis of four pension plans under federal jurisdiction. He then examined the federal government current Chief Actuary's non-qualified estimate (i.e. assumptions not disclosed) as at March 31, 2009. His conclusion: the government’s estimate of the number of affected pensioners is almost three times too high!