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Emotions raw as Regina pension issue hits floor of city council

Members of Regina's city council were given an earful Monday from a visibly irate group of people concerned about the future of the civic pension plan.
Retiree Peter Philp expressed dissatisfaction with how the civic pension plan, which has a large deficit, is being handled. (CBC)

Members of Regina's city council were given an earful Monday from a visibly irate group of people concerned about the future of the civic pension plan.

About 7,000 current employees and current pensioners are facing uncertainty for their retirements after the provincial regulator threatened to wind up the pension plan, which has a large deficit.

"Council really screwed up, didn't they?" retiree Peter Philp said as he left the council meeting Monday night.

Council members had just been given information on the pension, as of 2013. They received the report without making any decisions.

Dozens of people, watching in the gallery, appeared unimpressed.

Kirby Benning, a firefighter and chairman of the Pension and Benefits Committee for the civic pension plan. (CBC)

"Honour the deal," several called out, referring to an agreement that had been reached, but not implemented, concerning the future of the pension plan.

"I'm hoping that the mayor and council see this is a strong message with everyone showing up here," Kirby Benning, a firefighter and chairman of the Pension and Benefits Committee, said after the meeting. "I'm hoping they'll get back to the table and get this deal finished."

Benning addressed council members earlier in the evening and suggested the city should adopt a better mechanism for resolving issues surrounding the pension plan. His presentation did not elicit any response from council.

"Unfortunately, council hasn't impressed me lately," Benning said later.

Regina is trying, mayor says

Regina Mayor Michael Fougere says it has been very difficult to get a diverse group of employers and employees to agree on pension plan changes. (CBC)

Regina's mayor, Michael Fougere, insisted city officials have been trying to reach an agreement that could be approved by the provincial regulator. According to Fougere, the agreement that was tentatively reached was not enough for the regulator.

Fougere said meeting dates have been proposed, as recently as July 14, but no progress was made. He noted the pension plan involves five different employers. The largest groups are current and retired workers from the city (with 2,936 plan members) and the Regina Qu'Appelle Health Region (with 2,448 plan members).

"There are over 20 employee groups," Fougere also pointed out. "You can imagine the difficulty in trying to make a decision ... it's easier to decide on who wants dinner and where to go, compared to making a decision on the future of the plan."

Problems with the civic pension plan have been brewing for several years as evaluations have repeatedly shown that funding for the plan has regularly fallen short of its obligations.

According to the city, the plan — as of 2013 — has a funding shortfall of $240 million. The city's calculation includes a "safety margin" of 10 per cent of the liabilities. Without the safety margin, the deficit is about $117 million.

With files from CBC's Tory Gillis

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