Media Release – ONPA appeals to Financial Services Commission of Ontario

 

 

North Bay, Aug 14, 2014                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

 

ONPA appeals to Financial Services Commission

 

The Ontario Northland Pensioners Association (ONPA) has appealed to the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) to help them open up the lines of communication between the ONPA and their pension plan administrator, ONTC.  In the complaint, the ONPA also maintains the retirees should have been given a seat on the Pension Board, which is functioning like the Advisory Committee, described in the Pension Benefit Act. (PBA)

FSCO is responsible for administrating the Pensions Benefit Act and ensuring Plan Administrators act in accordance with the law.  We feel ONTC has not been in compliance with that law.” said Phil Koning, ONPA Chairperson

 

The ONPA has been trying to get a meeting with ONTC Chairperson, Ted Hargreaves, for over 2 years without success, or even an acknowledgement of their request.  The action has so far resulted in the release of the most recent plan financial documents, but the ONPA is seeking more information about the governance of the fund.

 

Both the ONTC Act and the Pension Benefits Act have sections that cover the composition of a board or advisory committee and the legislation needs to be reviewed carefully to ensure the rights of retired members are being upheld.  The previous Commission had a sub-committee responsible for pension plan governance, but with the current Commission down to only two people, the ONPA is unsure of who is looking after the long-term interests of their members.

 

We feel ONTC pensioners should have input to the governance of their plan and be assured that good governance is protecting the long term security of that plan.” concluded Koning.

 

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For more information please contact

 

Phil Koning

Chair ONPA

Ph. 705-499-7639

ONPA Update

Update on ONPA Activities 
 
as of Aug 2014
 
 
Ontario Northland
 
Since the ONPA AGM in May, we have been pursuing our goal of gaining a seat on the ONTC Pension Board for pensioners.

 
As I mentioned at those meetings, we have had some success in opening the lines of communication by involving the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO)  
 
 
The following is a chronology of how that initiative started, and how it is progressing:
 
Sept 2013
I requested copies of ONTC documents filed with FSCO for an upcoming ONPA Executive meeting. Request ignored by ONTC.
 (I have posted two of those documents, the most recent valuation published using data from Jan 1, 2011 and the Annual Information Return for 2012 on our website https://onpensioners.org/links/ )
 
Dec 28, 2013 
ONPA sent an email to FSCO inquiring about the responsibility of ONTC to respond to information requests.
 
Feb 28, 2014
FSCO reminds ONTC of their obligations as a Plan Administrator to provide information upon request.
 
Mar 11, 2014
We received copies of the info requested. 
In addition to the reminder about Plan Administrators obligations, FSCO wanted to know why ONTC had not responded to my original request in a timely manner.  
 
April 24, 2014
Glenn Zabarelo responded to FSCO stating that the request had been “misfiled” and therefore did not receive proper attention.
 
May 9, 2014
We wrote to FSCO and suggested that, in the view of the ONPA, the real reason I did not receive the information was due to a corporate will to shut the ONPA out of the information loop.  We also stated that the ONPA believed ONTC would benefit in the performance of their duties as Plan Administrator if they followed the recommendations contained in FSCO’s policy “Administrator’s Management of Inquiries and Complaints from Plan Beneficiaries”.
 
 
One of those recommendations is for the company to develop a written policy dealing with inquiries and complaints and we suggested it would be a good project for the Pension Advisory Committee (PAC) (known at ONTC as the “Pension Board”) to undertake.  Before doing that however, the ONPA felt they should be included in the PAC as per Section 24 of the Pension Benefits Act.
 
June 2, 2014 
FSCO questioned ONTC as to the existence of a Pension Advisory Committee and the contact info for the members if there was one.  
 
June 10, 2014 
G. Zabarelo responds to FSCO stating that ONTC does not have a Pension Advisory Committee as described by the Pension Benefits Act.  He goes on to describe the composition of the “Pension Board” and states the ONPA will be invited to the next meeting of that Board.
 
June 12, 2014 
ONPA writes to FSCO describing how the “Pension Board” was changed from an administrative body under the ONTC Act to an advisory committee when the Commission set up a sub-committee to handle pension matters.  As an “Advisory Committee” the composition of that board would now fall under the PBA and require the inclusion of at least one pensioner representative.
In addition, the ONPA is concerned about the legality, competence and capability of the current ONTC sub-committee and the governance of the plan, given that the Pension Board has not met in a long time.  
The ONPA restates that we are not interested in being invited as a guest, to Pension Advisory Committee meetings, but are demanding full participation in the process.
 
July 7, 2014 
FSCO responds to ONTC directing them to respond to the ONPA regarding clarification on the Pension Advisory Committee
 
Aug 5, 2014
G. Zabarelo responds to ONPA restating Pension Board is not an advisory committee as per the PBA
 
Aug 7, 2014
ONPA appeals to FSCO for ruling on status of Pension Board, assistance in giving Pensioners more input if it is not, and concerns over governance
 
 
We are hopeful the involvement of FSCO will bring about a complete change of attitude from ONTC, but in the meantime we have a good relationship with Paul Goulet, CEO.  Mr. Goulet has allowed us to use available ONTC boardrooms for our executive meetings and include our newsletter in the mailout to pensioners.  
 
Our goal remains to gain a seat on the Pension Advisory Committee for a pensioner representative, and as the only formal group representing ONTC pensioners, it makes sense to us, for that representative to be the ONPA Chair.
 
 
Canadian Federation of Pensioners (CFP)
 
The ONPA joined the CFP in June of this year and now we have access to a wealth of experience from which to draw on.  The group is national in scope and the pensioner groups who make up the Federation have been through some of the more challenging situations in pension deficiencies.  Some of the representatives who make up the CFP were intimately involved with pensions during their careers and now bring that experience and those connections to the table .
 
Some of the issues CFP have provided input on, include,
 
 
Op Ed in National Post – Don’t Change the Rules on Pensioners
 
Regulations to ON Pension Benefits Act – CFP Letter May 26 2014 (2) 
 
 
We continue to monitor the Ontario Regulatory Registry and consult with CFP to ensure our members interests are being considered as new legislation is enacted.
 
The new ORPP has generated some concern among our members and we will be watching that initiative very closely to ensure it does not adversely affect us.  With a target date of 2017 for implementation, there will be many details to be worked out as the plan is fully developed.
 
We asked the company about the recommendation that was recently circulated from the  ONTC solvency relief application and received the following response.
 
 The recommendation was made in December 2013.  The group that made the recommendation used the framework in D2 in their analysis of the various alternatives to achieve a more sustainable plan.  In the end it was determined that increasing employee contributions would be sufficient to meet the funding target.  The health of the plan will continue to be monitored and if it is determined that further action must be taken then we will bring back the committee that made the initial recommendation and have them look at alternatives and make a recommendation.
 
We will continue to seek updated information regarding the health of the plan.
 
 
 
 
ONPA Website
 
We launched our new website in March of this year and although the financial cost is considerably less than the old one ($100 per year vs $700) and more user friendly, there is still a steep learning curve before one can properly utilize all of the features.
 
The site is hosted on the WordPress platform and the cost includes a custom domain onpensiors.org
 
We are slowly putting more information on the site and trying to make it more visually appealing.  There are multiple venues for members to provide comments and although there are only  a couple of them at this point, we are hoping more members will contribute as the popularity of the site increases.  We have over 1800 pageviews so far and will be adding an application form to the website for potential members to print and send in.  
 
You can receive automatic email notifications of new posts on the website by clicking “Follow” in the upper left corner and entering your email address.
and/or you can scroll down and enter your information in our email list for information manually sent out by the ONPA.
 
Please help us spread the word by forwarding this email to any ONTC pensioner you know. 
 
Thank you for your support
 
Phil Koning
Chair
ONPA
 
 
 
 

Pension Update

Yesterday, the company provided ONPA notice of the following pensionupdateAugust2014 sent out with active members paystubs.

The contribution increase for active members was part of the solution to the solvency relief application and will result in a more secure pension fund without a reduction in pension payments.

The Union Leadership is to be commended for recognizing this is a painful, but better solution to a reduction in their members pension payouts. 

We are unsure at this time, if this is all that needs to be done in relation to that solvency relief application, but we are actively pursuing answers.  The company is showing signs of becoming more willing to share information, but we are seeking improvements in that area also.

 

We will strive to keep you updated

Thanks.

Phil