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Auditor General has it right on pensions: Thomas

Toronto – Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk is “100 per cent correct” when she says the provincial government has no unfettered right to count public employees’ pension funds as government assets, the President of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union says.

“We agree entirely with Ms. Lysyk when she says that the money in jointly-trusteed pension plans is ‘for the benefit of employees and retirees,’” OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas said today. “As President of OPSEU, I will never support any move to allow the government to siphon money from any of those plans for any other purpose.”

The provincial government maintains that surpluses in the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and OPTrust, the pension plan for 87,000 current and former OPSEU members, should be accounted for as government assets on the province’s books.

But many public sector plans in Ontario are jointly trusteed, meaning that employers and unions manage the plans together. In a news release today, the Auditor General said she would not give the province’s books “a clean audit opinion” without a letter from plan sponsors agreeing to the government’s view.

“Members of my union were fighting for joint trusteeship at least as far back as the 1960s because they were tired of seeing government after government using their retirement savings as a source of cheap capital,” Thomas said. “We first got joint trusteeship in the early 1990s. As a result, we have a number of extremely well-run pension plans that deliver good, stable incomes to retirees at a very affordable cost.

“We have no interest in going back in time.”

For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931