"The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much. It is whether we provide enough for those who have little."
Franklin D. Roosevelt
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.
What are others doing?
Some of the largest plans in Canada recognize that pensioners may marry, re-marry or enter into new spousal relationships after retirement. These plans have extended the post-retirement spousal benefit and yet they continue to prosper.
One example is OMERS (the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System), who extended this benefit in 1991 after recognizing it as an issue of fairness. OMERS has over $60 billion in assets representing 429,000 people.
HOOPP (Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan) agrees that benefits for surviving spouses are a key element in providing retirement security to Canadians. HOOPP manages $51.6 billion in assets for 286,000 members and retirees.
In Quebec, the Government and Public Employees Retirement Plan (RREGOP) extends the survivor pension benefit to post-retirement spouses. This successful plan covers more than 400,000 active participants and 200,000 pensioners. Its assets amount to $59 billion, managed by the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec.
OMERS, HOOPP and the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec are among the top ten pension plans in Canada and are consistently regarded as global leaders by their international peers.
Why has this unfairness persisted?
We believe there are two reasons. The first is that various Government analyses did 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!
A stubborn persistence in clinging to the antiquated notion of "gold-diggers" is the second reason this oppressive legislation still deprives surviving spouses of pensions after 115 years.