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The president of OPSEU says Ontario’s auditor general is “100 per cent correct” to counter the province’s position that surpluses in jointly sponsored public sector pension funds can be considered government assets.
Last October, AG Bonnie Lysyk challenged the province’s deficit numbers, saying it should be $5 billion, not $3.5 billion because surpluses from Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP) and the Ontario Public Sector Employees Union Pension Plan (OPSEU) should not be included in the accounting.
This week (Monday), the Pension Asset Advisory Panel differed with that stance, saying that the government can include the assets in its financial statements.
That’s not how OPSEU sees it.
“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 says. “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.”
Many of Ontario’s public sector plans are jointly managed, and in a statement released Thursday, Lysyk says she won’t give the province a “clean audit option” until she gets a letter from plan sponsors indicating agreement with the government’s position.
“That money is for the benefit of employees and retirees, people who have paid in to be able to live a comfortable life in retirement,” she says in the release. “So we need evidence of an agreement between the Ontario Teachers’ Federation and the Province saying that the Province can use $10.1 billion. Once we have that letter of agreement, this Office could sign off and give a clean audit opinion on this issue. It’s as simple as that.”
The fight for joint trusteeship goes back to the 60s, says Thomas, adding “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.”
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