Public sector pension plan joint governance

Effective March 1, 2019, some public sector pension plans transitioned to a joint governance structure. Under joint governance, employee and employer groups share control of plan design and responsibility for the financial health of the plan.

Learn more about joint governance of public sector pension plans.

Overview

Office of the Alberta Superintendent of Pensions

The mission statement of the Office of the Alberta Superintendent of Pensions is:

To provide a fair and balanced regulatory environment that supports the development and maintenance of strong and stable pension plans, and protects individuals’ pension rights. We work to achieve this mission by working and living the Alberta Public Service values and the Financial Sector Regulation and Policy operating guidelines.

Role of the Superintendent

The role of the Superintendent of Pensions is to administer and enforce the requirements of the Employment Pension Plans Act (EPPA), to ensure that all pension plans are compliant with the EPPA, and where necessary, to take enforcement action to correct issues of non-compliance.

Administration

The recommendations of the 2008 Joint Expert Panel on Pension Standards included a recommendation that the EPPA be principles based with rules being in place where needed.

To that end, the EPPA and Regulation were proclaimed on September 1, 2014 and give the Superintendent flexibility and discretion to work with plan administrators to explore new ideas and to ensure that a plan complies with the legislation. In this process the Superintendent may:

  • extend any due dates set in the legislation
  • accept or reject new plan designs
  • impose conditions where an extension has been granted
  • accept or reject plan amendments and actuarial valuations, under certain circumstances
  • impose administrative penalties for issues of non-compliance, if deemed necessary given the context and circumstance
  • request additional records or information if deemed necessary for the Superintendent to perform his duties

In exercising these discretionary powers, the Superintendent will apply the following principles in his consideration of the issues:

  • does the action proposed reflect and/or not deter from the true goal of providing a lifetime pension to members
  • does the proposal treat members in the same class of employment or grouping consistently
  • does the proposal lower or negatively affect the probability that the benefits promised will be paid
  • what information has or will be provided to members

Pension legislation

The EPPA sets out the minimum standards that pension plans with Alberta members must meet with respect to those members. The legislation deals with:

  • what a member is entitled to, when a member is entitled to a benefit from a pension plan, and what the payment options are
  • minimum standards for funding of benefits
  • minimum standards applying to fundholders, and rules around the administration and investment of pension funds
  • responsibilities, liabilities and obligations of individuals involved in the administration of a pension plan (such as participating employers, fundholders, plan administrators, etc.)

Key minimum standards affecting members

The EPPA requires that:

  • all members of the group of employees, which are eligible for participation in the plan, must be permitted to join the plan if they have earned 35% of YMPE in each of two consecutive calendar years
  • benefits earned are immediately vested in the member
  • benefits are locked-in if the commuted value of the benefit is at least equal to 20% of YMPE
  • members with a pension partner must choose a 60% joint and survivor pension on pension commencement unless the pension partner waives entitlement to the joint and survivor benefit
  • members are entitled to certain disclosure of information upon joining the plan, on an annual basis while an active members of the plan, and on termination of membership. Furthermore, retired members who receive a monthly pension from the plan are also entitled to disclosure of information

Key minimum standards affecting funding

The EPPA requires:

  • triennial actuarial valuations of benefit formula plans
  • amortization of any unfunded liabilities over 15 years and solvency deficiencies over 5 years
  • remittance to the fund holder of contributions due and owing on a monthly basis
  • filing of additional actuarial valuations if an event occurs between the triennial period that affects plan funding

Key minimum standards for plan funds

The EPPA requires that:

  • pension plan funds must be held separate and apart from the plan sponsor or participating employer
  • pension plan funds must be held by a prescribed fundholder (normally a trust company, individual trustees, or an insurance company)
  • except in the case of a collectively bargained multi-employer pension plan, fundholders must advise the Superintendent of a participating employer’s failure to remit contributions or remittance irregularities
  • pension plan funds must be invested in accordance with the requirements of Schedule III of the federal Pension Benefits Standards Act

Key minimum standards for plan management

The EPPA requires that:

  • all plans must have a governance policy
  • plans with benefit formula provisions must have a funding policy
  • unless investment decisions are made by plan members, the plan must have a statement of investment policies and procedures
  • the plan administrator must assess the administration of the plan on an annual basis, which includes an assessment of the plan’s compliance with legislation, the plan’s governance, and the funding of the plan
  • the plan administrator must file an Annual Information Return with the Superintendent
  • in the case of a plan with a benefit formula provision, the administrator must file an actuarial valuation and cost certificate triennially, or at other times required under the Act
  • information requested by the Superintendent be provided by the party to whom the request is made

Key minimum standards for locked-in funds

The EPPA sets out rules for governing locked-in retirement products:

  • LIRAs (Locked-in Retirement Accounts) are RRSPs with special rules. For more information, see Interpretive Guideline IG-17 (PDF, 86 KB).
  • LIFs (Life Income Funds) are RRIFs with special rules. For more information, see Interpretive Guideline IG-18 (PDF, 147 KB).
  • Locked-in funds transferring out of a pension plan must be transferred to a LIRA or a LIF.

The EPPA also sets out rules for accessing or unlocking pension funds from a LIRA or a LIF in different situations, including financial hardship. See Information for individuals - Unlocking pension funds.

For more information, see Pension legislation and updates and Interpretive Guidelines.

Related websites

Private sector plans (current and former members)

Alberta public sector pension plans

Disclaimer: Links to other websites are provided solely for your convenience. The Government of Alberta does not control, endorse, or guarantee the accuracy, completeness, efficacy and timeliness of other websites, and is not responsible for the privacy practices of other websites. Read our complete disclaimer.

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Contact

Pension plans registered under the Employment Pension Plans Act (EPPA)

To connect with the Office of the Alberta Superintendent of Pensions:

Hours: 8:15 am to 4:30 pm (open Monday to Friday, closed statutory holidays)
Phone: 780-427-8322 
Toll free: 310-0000 before the phone number (in Alberta)
Email: employment.pensions@gov.ab.ca

Address:
Alberta Superintendent of Pensions
Alberta Treasury Board and Finance
Financial Sector Regulation and Policy
402 Terrace Building
9515 107 Street
Edmonton, Alberta  T5K 2C3

Public sector pensions

Contact the following for information on:

Alberta public sector employee pensions: Alberta Pensions Services Corporation
Alberta Teachers’ Pension Plans: Alberta Teachers’ Retirement Fund Board
Federal pension plans: Canada Pension Plan or Old Age Security