Nova Scotia

N.S. to delay windup of NewPage pension

The provincial government plans to table legislation to delay the windup of the underfunded pension plans for workers at the former NewPage Port Hawkesbury paper mill in Cape Breton.

The provincial government plans to table legislation to delay the windup of the underfunded pension plans for workers at the former NewPage Port Hawkesbury paper mill in Cape Breton.

Dexter said he's discussed the proposal with non-unionized employees and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union.

He said his government will likely table legislation early next week that would safeguard the pension plan beyond the sale of NewPage.

The former pulp and paper plant workers have been asking the the government to bring in a law to keep their plan alive  to give them more time to rebound.  They are currently underfunded by more than $100 million.

Without a law to stop the process, the pension plan would be terminated and its assets distributed to pensioners. The problem is that there isn't enough left to pay out what pensioners were promised.

Dexter said his government is looking to change that.

"We're looking at the options for an extension of the time frame in order to allow for the wrap-up of the plan which they hope will mean a better result," he said Friday.

The premier said delaying the windup could help pensioners because the value of the plan could increase if the stock market recovers.

"They paid into those pensions for many years, they had expectations that were completely fair when they were doing that. They are essentially blameless in this in many regards because they didn't forsee what was going to happen in the paper market. So, I think it's incumbent upon us to do what we are able to do," Dexter said.

Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie supports the move.

"Right now would be the worst possible time to wind up the NewPage pension plan. They would take pension losses in the 30 per cent range," he said.

The Liberals are also on board, but MLA Michel Samson, who represents the riding of Richmond where the mill is located, wonders why a bill isn't before the House already.

"Whenever you're rushing through legislation, there's always the risk of not getting it done right," he said. "And when you look at the financial implications involved here, none of us want to see this bill not achieve what's being asked for."

 

With the Canadian Press

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